Calf sheds on many farms now full and the bacterial load inside them is quite high, which means that calves are now at higher risk of scour.

A number a factors could now be causing issues with scour in sheds, and the current focus should be on preventing cases and controlling the spread.

The presence of scour causing bacteria, wet bedding and the number of calves in sheds will all be contributors of sickness.


Calves that present with a case of scour need to be isolated from other calves to prevent the spread of cases.

Once the calf has been isolated, you need to keep them hydrated – as a calf with scour is losing fluid.

It is important that you continue to feed calves their milk along with electrolytes.

Sick calves should be given three to four litres of electrolytes in separate feeds to their milk feeds.

Antibiotics will be helpful to some calves, and may not work at all for others. Antibiotics should be discussed with your vet before providing them to calves.


At this stage of the year, there is an increased risk of pneumonia cases.

Some of the factors that increase the risk of pneumonia cases are:

  • Low environmental temperatures;
  • High humidity;
  • Poor ventilation;
  • Draughts;
  • Overcrowding;
  • Poor nutritional status.

To help prevent cases, you need to ensure that the shed has effective ventilation and that there are no draughts at calf level, as the environment in which calves are living in has a significant impact on them.

Many farmers wait until rearing season is over to fix issues within calf sheds, but the sooner they are resolved, the better.

You should avoid overcrowding of sheds and pens and mixing different aged calves. Each calf requires 1.5m² of lying space/calf and an air space of 7m³/calf.

Bedding shortages are an issue on many farms, but not keeping on top of the bedding could be detrimental to calf health.

The ‘knee test’ should be used to check bedding. To perform a knee test, place your knee on the straw and if it is damp, the bedding needs to be changed; if it is dry, the bedding is suitable.

Many of the factors that increase the risk of cases can be linked to the bedding, so it is vital that close attention is payed.


Continue to focus on hygiene, as doing so will best prevent cases of scour and pneumonia in sheds.

Ensure that all new calves get adequate colostrum and pens are not over stocked with calves.

Have a foot dip at the entrance to the shed and control the access, as people entering into the shed could be a scour of disease to the calves.

Some lime should be spread on the foot once the old material has been removed, and remember – avoid the use of water as it aids the bacteria.