Diarrhoea in calves can be deadly

Cattle with calves, Yarrow Valley.
Cattle with calves, Yarrow Valley.

There is nothing worse for calves than an outbreak of diarrhoea, write SAC Consulting’s veterinary investigation officers at St Boswells.

The losses can be high and it is hard work to nurse affected calves back to health. Oral fluids will help many calves, but some can be so badly affected that they cannot stand and will die without treatment from your vet.

Diagnosing the cause of the diarrhoea is important as there are specific medicines for some of the causes and it helps in taking decisions on whether or not to use vaccines next year. But it is also important to remember that some of the infections can also cause disease in humans.

At our lab in St Boswells we found Cryptosporidiosis and rotavirus to be by far the most common infections identified in 52 per cent and 34 per cent of the cases respectively. Other causes were found, but much less frequently. All these agents attack the gut lining stopping nutrients being absorbed leading to diarrhoea, dehydration and sometimes death.

Ensuring that your calves are born into a clean environment and receive adequate colostrum will give them a good start in life and help to prevent them picking up these infections.

Think carefully before buying in calves as they are a potential source of infection and could be carrying disease such as Salmonella, Johne’s disease and BVD virus.

By following good management practices you can reduce the likelihood of a diarrhoea outbreak in your calves.

Speak to your vet about preventing losses from calf diarrhoea this year.