Scours in Calves

By late morning yesterday four of the five calves were scouring. Diarrhea. Bad. All except Difficult. sunflowers

Here is what I know. Any loss of fluids needs to be replaced very fast or a small newly born animal like these calves will die.  The scouring needs to be attended to immediately. If caught early and I can get at least a quart of fluid down their throats every three or four hours there is a good chance the calf will survive.

Little, who is drinking Lady Asters milk, went down first. The calves in the other barn followed close behind and they are drinking milk replacer.  So it is not the milk powder. But it is nutrition related  –  (they were scouring white water).

There are no vets on the weekends so I have chosen to treat the symptom rather than waste precious time  searching about for a cause as this point. In the end the cause of it takes second place to replacing the lost minerals, keeping the baby hydrated so she can flush her system without killing herself.  All through this episode their noses have remained moist.


They just cannot find their balance.  Scours is a very real threat to bottle fed babies.  And I really think that these calves did not get colostrum at birth.

I had electrolyte on hand for exactly this problem and a plan. You must have a plan for fighting this kind of thing it is very hard work and extremely tiring so it is best to create a plan ahead of time. Trying to work out what to do in the middle of a crisis leads to errors.

By this morning after 20 odd hours of three and sometimes two hourly force fed drinks of electrolyte (if they would not stand up I fed them lying down or if they refused to drink  I held  their heads and bodies against a wall with my legs, put the teat in their mouth then reached in and squeezed the fluid into their mouths with my own fingers – you cannot give them too much of this stuff.)  I have gone through almost a box of gloves. But by this morning they are at least improved.

Separate. Make sure the calf has water close by so they do not need to walk far.

By this morning all the calves but Little are back up, and were able to have a little milk in their electrolyte mixture. All but two ran to the gate and sucked their little portion right down.  Some were even peeing which is a welcome sight! sunflowers

I will continue with three hourly drinks.

Little is the slowest to recover but has come out of his house and is tottering  about in the sun, he is such a mess, he still will not voluntarily drink more than a few slugs, after that we go to battle. But it is honestly a battle for his life so we fight.

I have been up and down with them all night really, giving endless drinks and I am now deadly tired but we are not out of the woods yet.  They are hydrated again now, but they need to Eat.

pigs ear

So now I am adding milk back in to the electrolyte.

I know many people believe in starving the animal of milk for 48 hours but there are two schools of thought here. And i err on the side of cautious nutrition. Even if it is expelled at speed the calf will get a little goodness and develop a little more strength,  as long as I am still pushing the other fluids. But if they do not get nutrition into their bodies they will deteriorate and they will not grow properly.  It is a juggling act.

OK back to work.

Your friend on the farm,


P.S. If I do not post tomorrow morning it will not be because something is wrong it will be because I am sleeping or just late posting.  Probably both!


66 Comments on “Scours in Calves

  1. Stay strong, Miss C. The whole Fellowship will be pushing strength, good wishes and sheer bloody minded determination your way. It sounds gruelling, and I wish I could be there to take over some of the other stuff so you don’t have to think about it. Thinking about you, with fingers crossed. xxxx

  2. Oh, goodness. 😦 Just said a little prayer, asking for strength and stamina for you and healing for the calves. Hoping for a better night and day for you all.

  3. oh my gosh- how frightening for these little calves. Thank goodness you know what to do- hopefully they all pull out of this .

  4. I hope you remember to treat yourself as well as you’re treating your animals, c. Hugs to you. xx


  5. Poor things! I hope they all pull through – I’m sure they are getting the very best attention and care 🙂

  6. I know about the scours… and I was only working on one little deer (Daisy) for a couple of days. I cannot imagine the work and worry about so many little calves! I am sending love and energy your way… I hope the coming hours show improvement and you are able to rest easy.

  7. Sending positive thoughts and healing energy to all, hope the little ones turn the corner soon in the next 24 hours. Laura

  8. Oh bloody hell – what a shyte thing to happen right now. As if you haven’t enough on your plate. Hang in there my friend, sleep all day tomorrow if you have to!

  9. Scours are so difficult. I had the problem in my goat kids this year. It’s exhausting. Good luck with your calves.

  10. miss c having been in this battle, its a hard one indeed.. I know that lots of folks will offer different advice, and each will offer different, I think what you are doing is bang on, but I will also share grandpa advice on scours, and yes I have done it, but like you so many other things being done, no way to know if it worked, helped etc but my scour calvies did all make it.. ok so when comes time to start milk again, make according to instruction, and then beat one raw egg in mix.. beat the egg first till pale and frothy before adding so blends in easy.. repeat until the poo changes color and get ploopy..

    now here is the other and again its odd but none the less, as wee babes, you wring the spit out, but as soon as they are even nibbling, you make them swallow a small wade, only needs to be done once or twice.. for calves that are bottle feed, steal a waddle of chewing cud from your milk cow, your adult tummy is filled with working bugs, that licked with momma calvie get but bottle are missing, so by stealing a second cud and giving to the bottle calf, it brings that strong healthy tummy load to the calf, I know its a odd one but I have done it with all my bottle babies and I feel I can see a difference in doing so..

    third, bless you, nap when you can and prayers..

  11. That’s why Little was so exhausted and tired the other day! Poor guy. And poor Celi. It reads like a breathless thriller what you are telling us about your life saving efforts for that sick babies. So sad. And such a relief that they feel a little better now. Hope all goes well.
    You are so great having made a plan and knowing all that ahead what’s necessary to do. Good luck, Celi, for all of them.

  12. Oh how scary! I am very surprised that there aren’t vets on call in the middle of farm country. Animals, like kids, rarely get sick at convenient times. I hope the calves will be ok and that you get to sleep soon.

  13. I hope all goes well. When people imagine farm life, they don’t think of the exhausting slog (and anxiety) entailed in events such as this. Glad things are looking up. How you steal a cow’s cud…well, I’ll leave that to you.

  14. Stay strong this is a tough battle. I have also heard of adding an egg. How exactly do you talk a cow out of it cud. Interesting.

  15. old time treatment we used was to boil the milk before gave to calves to treat scours,

  16. How well I can relate to this. Do you ever use Probios? In addition to electrolytes, and actually for more purposes, I rely on the water-soluble form of Probios powder as my first line of prevention and/or defense against all sorts of digestive/nutrition troubles. Good luck, and I’ll be rooting for you and all the calves.

  17. Oh my goodness Miss C, what a mess to get into . I do hope that somehow andin some way you will win this battle…..prayers will be said.

  18. Prayers and the loving care of Miss Celie are a good recipe for all troubles. I hope that by now they are showing signs of improvement, especially that Little, who needs her nourishment.

    What a shame your good helpers Fede and Amanda are no longer there to spell you a bit.

    Keep your chin up,
    lots of love,
    ViV xox

  19. OMG. Cecilia, you have such stamina and character! I just learned my cat has kidney disease and I am going to have to give him fluids 3x a week and I’m in a tizzy! I need a little perspective!!! Yes, prayers are in order here!

  20. Here’s wishing you all swift, complete healing and LOTS of rest! I just spent a few hours in the ER last night thanks to my own scours (a sudden unfriendly visit from viral gastroenteritis) but they did wonders for me and today I already feel worlds better despite the doc’s admonition to expect 3-5 days down with the junk. Tons of fluids and electrolytes for all of us! I’m sorry you can’t give your calves a nice saline/meds/morphine drip like the one that got me past ‘the wall’ and broke my fever, but I hope your heroism will pay off for you all richly and that the calves will recover so quickly that you can make it through to a truly good night’s sleep ASAP.

    Sending you much love and comfort.

  21. Hi Miss C. Boy do I know that feeling of exhaustion and frustration and in a way helplessness when they won’t suck…..when it becomes a fight. 😦 In the past I have had some success using egg – I put a whole egg in the electrolyte if the scours are white. It certainly cant hurt to try. But if there is brain damage there is not much you can do except hope and mentally prepare.

  22. Gloves… I can help with gloves. What size, does it matter if they are latex or not? This is my thing. To share stuff that might be discarded otherwise.

      • Not in the US, but yes – I work in a medical supply warehouse and am the one in charge of disposing of items that can’t be sold as new – like a box of gloves with a rip or a CASE of gloves that ‘expired.’

          • Ugh, why do I have to live so far away? It’s sending them to you that would be the only cost factor. Hmm. Maybe ask locally where your doctors, vets, etc, get their gloves and find a warehouse like mine where they literally throw gloves away? Would also be a good source for buckets – I once had to get rid of 500 plastic buckets that were slightly crushed!

  23. Oh C. not one more thing, just when things were going quite smoothly but I guess that is the nature of farming. I so hope all the littles recover and that you do get some much needed rest SOON! Sending good thoughts and wishes your way.
    I love that last photo by the way of Poppy and one of her babes. Is that the one you’re supposed to send to me? 🙂

  24. I have three up and banging on the gate, Little is still bad, and Pin (I had to name them so I could name their bottles!) has to be cajoled and forced to drink as well.. ) But Little is so little he is having a hard time.. c

    • Oh hang in there Little, we’re all thinking of you……and Pin, drink up, there’s a good calf.

  25. Keeping everyone on the farmy in my prayers, especially the ones having most trouble. Make sure you take care of yourself too.

  26. Bloody hell indeed!! Exactly what you needed!! And let’s face it all that sick poo has to be cleaned up pronto also . . . wish a genie could beam us across in shifts to feed those littlies . . .

  27. poor you, poor them…. it’s a bugger the way calves are taken away too early to get the colostrum they need… that was always why they died in the country around us. Do hope all your magnificent efforts keep you all going… we are all rooting for you and them….

  28. Poor little calves, I hope they all pull through. Keep up your strength too. X

  29. Oh no. I so hate to hear this my friend. I do help Little and the other calves pull through. I feel like I know them personally – one anipal to another. You are so dedicated to your farm and anipals. Not only as a dedicated farm but as a friend to my fellow anipals. That is great love. Please take care of yourself as well. XOXO – Bacon

  30. I saw above someone mentioned probiotics I second that. It will help even after the scours. The egg is good and so is yogurt with active cultures. We started a regimen of vitamin shots with our sale barn calves as we had no idea what their situation was before they came to us; Vitamin E, Iron and a Vitamin B (I don’t remember which one though). Also a stomach tube would be helpful for the weak ones, have the vet show you how to use it if you are not sure how to go about it. Be sure to prop up the calf, ideally you would have a second person to help, using bales or whatever you can. It is ridiculously easy for calves to get liquid in their lungs if they are down. Good luck and thinking healthy thoughts for all the calves and you.

  31. Having grown up on a dairy farm, I totally understand what you are battling. It sounds like you are doing all you can and the calves are improving. You were wise not to wait.

  32. I remember my dad fighting scours on our farm when I was wee. He’d be in the barn night and day. Sending you lots of love and hope for sleep soon.

  33. Oh, rest well. That sounds so exhausting, but you were prepared for this and that was very smart of you.

  34. ‘Scours’ sounds somewhat like ‘scourge’, which I guess it is… somewhat alike, that is.
    Waiting to hear the news and hoping, with great expectation, that it will be good news… and also hoping you are coping with all this. It surely sounds like a trial. Prayers and good wishes being sent. ~ Mame

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