Hampton Veterinary Centre Hampton Veterinary Centre Hampton Veterinary Centre

Calf scour

Calf scour cases dramatically increase in number in February and the agents most frequently responsible are E.coli (K99) and cryptosporidium. E.coli infection occurs very early, usually within 3 days of birth. Calves may die very suddenly, sometimes without showing signs of scour. Usually if scouring occurs about 1-2 weeks from birth then this is likely to be Rotavirus or Cryptosporidium infection.

Electrolytes by mouth should be the primary treatment. Milk should be withheld for at least 24 hours to rest the stomach, whilst feeding electrolyte solutions. Milk should then be gradually reintroduced to prevent a nutritional scour.


Treatment of all cases is broadly similar but it is important to find out the underlying cause(s) to formulate a plan for prevention of future cases. We have a rapid and accurate test kit in our laboratory to give a result within 10 mins. It doesn’t matter if calves have been treated, but the sooner the sample is taken after scouring starts the more likely we can get a diagnosis.

There are many electrolyte preparations available and choice is often due to personal preference. Our newest product is Scourproof Extra®. It rapidly rehydrates calves, slows the gut transit time and provides extra energy. This allows milk to be introduced sooner and reduces the chance of a growth check. Recently we have also had good success with the re-launch of a product used for over 20 years - Bimamix® (formerly Bimastat). This is an oral antibiotic given in addition to electrolytes.


If E. coli or Rotavirus are involved then the best long-term prevention is still involves the use of Rotavec K99 Corona vaccine®. This should be given at drying off but at least 3 weeks prior to expected calving date. The following emergency measures can have a dramatic reduction in future cases: Infection from any cause arises from a build up of organisms in the calving area. This is usually worse during or after a period of increased humidity. Change the calving area if possible, if not then change the bedding in that area. If both are impractical then apply liberal amount of lime on a daily basis.

  • Remove calves from calving area as soon as possible and within 24 hrs of birth.
  • • Ensure adequate colostrum intake (minimum 2 litres, ideally 3 within 6-8 hours). Colostrum is vital in conveying specific and non-specific protection against various viral and bacterial infections. There is one exception- Cryptosporidium is a protozoan parasite, more akin to coccidiosis. Colostrum does not appear to convey any specific protection against this organism. If your calves are at high risk of Crypto, Halocur® has a preventative effect.
  • • Long-term prevention with the use of sand spread around the cleaned calving area. Applying it to a depth of 6” under the straw reduces moisture content of upper layers of bedding thus reducing risk of E.coli mastitis and scour in calves. There is the additional benefit of added grip. This does work - try it to see!

If you have any questions please feel free to ask the farm vets