Scour prevention: While it’s early in the calving season, a few tips and preventatives could help reduce the time and labour required tending to sick calves.

Number one is colostrum. Adequate-quality colostrum is key to setting the calf up to be able to fend off any disease challenges in the next few weeks, including scour and pneumonia.

Aim to get 3l into calves within two hours of birth. The sooner the better.

Colostrum from its mother is best and is a must if vaccinating for scour.

If a calf has had any assistance or pull, it is best to feed it, in case it’s delayed getting to its feet.

Lots of bedding is also essential, preferably straw to give that nesting effect. Calves need a warm dry bed.

Shed temperature needs to be between 10-15°C for newborn calves with no low level draughts. Vaccination has a role to play on some farms. Hygiene is very important around calving time. A good tip is to place a footbath outside the calving shed so you aren’t bringing disease into susceptible newborn calves.

Keep two stomach tubes; one for colostrum for newborn calves and one for sick calves.

Scour treatment: Scouring suckler calves and their dams should be separated from other calves and their mothers to prevent disease spread.

While many will jump to use antibiotic tablets, the first port of call should be to give an oral rehydration solution.

The single most important treatment is to replace the salts and fluids that are lost with scour. Healthy calves need up to 4l of fluid per day and scouring calves need an additional 4l to replace lost fluids.

Give one or two extra feeds (2l each) of a good-quality oral rehydration solution as soon as the calf starts scouring and while it is scouring. These should be given during the day as well.

Feeding a sick calf before and after work isn’t enough. It will need more fluids during the day. If problems are persisting and losses are occurring, sometimes the only option is to calve outdoors, or at least get cows and calves out as soon as possible.

Calf jackets can work wonders for sick calves in terms of bringing them back around by raising their temperature. You can make up a simple electrolyte mix at home:

Home-made electrolyte mix to be made up in 2l of warm water:

  • 8g (half a tablespoon) of Low Salt.
  • 12g (one tablespoon) of bread soda.
  • 40g (2 to3 tablespoons) of glucose.
  • Next episode in webinar series: Our next Irish Farmers Journal webinar takes place on Wednesday 16 February at 8pm on The topic up for discussion that night will be fertiliser strategies for dairy and beef farms and how to get the most out of your slurry in 2022.

    The livestock team will be joined by Mark Plunkett from Teagasc to answer your questions on slurry and fertiliser application this spring.

    You can email questions you would like answered on the night to or WhatsApp them to 086-836 6465.