Calving is underway on autumn-calving or winter milk herds and as a consequence, there will be issues with calf health and scour.

Scour is the biggest killer of young calves on farms, so preventative measures and treatment protocols are important to have in place.

This should firstly reduce the number of cases that occur and secondly reduce the recovery time of calves.


Scour can occur in a number of forms, with nutritional scour occurring due to stress caused by a breakdown in management practices or routine, such as sudden changes to the diet or environment.

But nutritional scour can often progress to infections, which is caused by high population of pathogens in the calves’ environment.

Common types of scour includes rotavirus and coronavirus, which destroy the cells lining the small intestine, resulting in diarrhoea and dehydration.

Any calf that develops scour should be isolated from the other calves immediately.

Infected calves should be isolated in a warm environment and treated for the pathogen causing the scour.

Consult with your vet regarding the pathogen causing the scour in your calves and develop a treatment plan for affected animals.

If calf scour is, or has been, an issue previously, a vaccination programme should be developed, and a future prevention plan created.


Calves are born with no immunity, and colostrum is the only way that they can get these maternal antibodies.

When calves are born on farms this autumn, it is important to remember the 1,2,3 rule regarding colostrum:

  1. Use the first milk (colostrum) from the cow;
  2. Feed the calf colostrum within the first two hours of birth;
  3. Calves must be offered at least 3L of good-quality colostrum.

The feeding of high-quality colostrum is particularly important on farms were scour vaccinations are being used.

The calf shed should be treated almost like a clean room, with access to the calf shed being controlled.

Nobody other than people working with the calves should enter the shed.

At the entrance there should a footbath and people working with the calves should be wearing relatively clean clothing.

The feeding equipment in the shed should be cleaned daily and the teats inspected regularly.

Bacteria can build up in the teat and then easily be digested by the calf, resulting in an upset stomach, also known as scour.

Young calves also find it difficult to regulate body temperature. If calves are cold, they will put more energy into staying warm rather than using it to promote growth.

So, to prevent that from happening, sheds need to be bedded well. Calf jackets can also be used if available.

Stocking rates in pens should also be closely monitored as overstocking can lead to an increased level of sickness.