Kisii Agricultural Training Center Livestock Officer Caroline Kisera with some of their calfs. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

Dear Dr Othieno Joseph, I am a dairy farmer from Bukembe in Bungoma County. My three cows have calves, and all the calves recently had bad diarrhoea. Luckily, they are healed. What can I do to prevent such things in the future? [Dennis Sikolia Bukembe]

Thanks, Dennis, for your question. You are lucky to have not lost your calves because of diarrhoea. Diarrhoea can be fatal to calves as it results in the loss of body electrolytes, and death can easily occur. My experience is that diarrhoea is a result of poor animal husbandry. Where bucket feeding is exercised, you will either find that the farmhand did not wash the bucket well or they did not wash their hands while giving the milk, resulting in contamination.

What Causes Calf Scours?

Diarrhoea is a clinical sign of many underlying diseases or poor animal husbandry practises. Diarrhoea results in fluid loss due to malabsorption, electrolyte imbalance, and dehydration. If not treated timely and appropriately, death may occur. Not all diarrhoeas in calves result from infections; some are due to poor animal husbandry like a lack of Vitamins A and E or stress from adverse weather conditions, overcrowding, muddy calf pens, or sudden changes in diet.

Causes of calf scours include salmonella, E. Coli, Clostridium, viruses, coccidia, yeasts, and moulds, normally picked up from contaminated milk or feed.

Clinical Signs

Dirty hind quarter. Diarrhoea may sometimes be bloody, have a foul smell, and be watery. Calves with scours will be restless and will kick at the abdomen. Sick calves will have an increase in respiration and will appear weak.

Treating Calf Scours

Diarrhoea will require the infusion of intravenous fluids to cover for the lost body electrolytes, and you will certainly need to call in your veterinary doctor. Only a veterinary doctor should administer electrolyte fluids because doing so can quickly result in an imbalance and death.

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