Causes of neonatal calf diarrhea

Neonatal calf diarrhea, also known as calf scours, is often caused by viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Scours can be deadly for young calves as they experience a loss of water and electrolytes through the gut and quickly dehydrate.

Where did the calf get exposed? If a calf becomes sick in the first five days, infection most likely happened in the maternity pen. If calves become sick once they’re more than seven days old, they were likely exposed to infection in their own environment, the calf pen.

Most Common Infectious Organisms and the Age of Diarrhea
OrganismAge of Diarrhea
E. Coli*First 3 days
Salmonella*Day 5 – 14
Corona VirusDay 3 – 7
RotavirusDay 3 – 7
Eimeria spp. (coccodiosis)Day 7 – 4 to 6 months
Cryptosporidium parvum (parasite)*Day 5 – 7
Giardia spp. (protozoa)Day 14 – 21
Most Common Non–Infectious Organisms
Selenium deficiency
Other oral treatments
Source: Dairy and Veal Healthy Calf Conference, 2007

*Salmonella, Campylobacter spp., Cryptosporidium spp. and E.coli are contagious to people. Please make sure you wash your hands after working with calves.