Scours can be a dangerous condition for baby calves with diarrhea leading to dehydration in young stock. Various organisms can be the source of scours, including viruses, bacteria and protozoa. Extension veterinarian Russell Daly explains that determining the pathogen causing the scours can be helpful in treating the sickness.
"We want to get an idea of what organisms are causing that problem, especially for instance, in the case of coccidiosis the treatment for that particular cause of scours would be pretty different from treatments for other causes of scours," said Daly during a recent iGrow Radio Network interview.
The only definitive way to identify the germ present in the scours is a diagnostic evaluation. Stockmen fighting tough cases of calf scours will want to consult their veterinarian for assistance.
"When I was in private practice cattle producers would often let me know the color of the calves’ scours – unfortunately the color of the calf scours is not that useful. The color of the scours has a lot to do with whatever that calf is taking in. In order to know the cause you really need to get the veterinarian out to take samples so he can take those samples to a diagnostic lab," Daly said.

Short of that, Daly notes the age of the calf hit with scours can indicate the source, with younger calves more prone to bacterial or viral infections.
Regardless of the cause, treatment for scours almost always includes fluids and electrolytes.
"The worst effect of diarrhea in a baby calf is dehydration. Seeing as especially very young calves don’t have many reserves to draw upon, we can see some very sick debilitating calves due to calf scours – in severe cases we can see death losses," He said. "Depending on the condition of the calf usually that will be oral fluids, but in really bad cases it will be intravenous fluids."
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