The autumn-calving season is well underway on farms across the country, and with it comes many challenges.

Scour is the biggest killer of calves under one-month-old on farms, so preventative measures and treatment protocols are important to have in place.

Autumn calving

Autumn-calving herds are seeing the arrival of calves, and pens beginning to fill up in sheds.

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.


All scour outbreaks should be investigated early by consulting a vet who can then arrange for faecal samples to be sent to a lab.

Some vets may offer a quick diagnostic faecal sample test on-farm.

Early consultation and investigation means that the pathogen causing the scour can be identified, which in turn means that a targeted treatment plan for the pathogen can be developed.

Pathogens are often picked up from the environment, so lack of cleanliness in the calving area and in the calf-rearing house is a major risk factor.

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.

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


There are a number of preventative measures that can be used on farms to stop calves from becoming sick with scour.

Firstly, access to the calf shed should be 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.