In terms of survival, the first few weeks are the most crucial of a young calf's life, as their bodies are not yet developed to the point where they can effectively fight off illnesses. With so many potential health hazards around, it is important that as a livestock farmer you are at least aware of these 5 common calf diseases, and know what steps to take in order to prevent them and, if needs be, treat them.


Possibly the most prevalent cause of calf death in the first month of life, symptoms of scour include:

  • Severe diarrhoea
  • Panting as though physically exhausted
  • Sunken eyes
  • A reluctance to feed either from a bottle or direct from their mother
  • Lethargy

Dehydration resulting from diarrhoea is often the direct cause of death from Scour.

Scour can be brought on by bacteria (e.coli or salmonella usually) or a virus, and it is not always easy to determine which. Because of this it is difficult to tell what kind of medication, anti-bacterial or anti-viral, is best to administer, which is why taking preventative measures is essential. There are a number of effective routes you can take in order prevent calf scours, including pre-natal vaccinations, thoughtful colostrum management, and generally ensuring the good hygiene of living and sleeping areas.

If one of your calves has scour, the best thing you can do is quarantine it immediately and take steps toward replacing the electrolytes, glucose, minerals and vitamins lost through diarrhoea.


As well as causing Scour, Salmonella bacteria can also cause Salmonellosis; the most common symptoms of which are:

  • Dysentery
  • Pneumonia
  • Arthritis
  • Jaundice
  • Septicaemia
  • All the symptoms of Scour

Despite its plethora of symptoms, it is not uncommon for Salmonellosis to kill a calf before any symptoms present themselves. If you are fortunate enough to catch it, antibiotic treatments must be administered immediately and the calf should be taken to a warm, isolated environment.

It is possible to vaccinate calves against individual strains of Salmonella, with Salmonella typhimurium and S.dublin being the two that are most commonly protected against. The only other way to effectively ward against Salmonellosis is to ensure that a calf's living area is hygienic and any artificial teats that it uses are well-cleaned.


The single most common and deadly killer of calves, Pneumonia is the primary cause of a number of viral infections, and can be brought about as a result of bacterial infections (such as Salmonellosis). Pneumonia is an opportunistic calf disease that will strike when their immune system is already weak or compromised, and the symptoms of Pneumonia include:

  • Panting
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mucosal discharge
  • Lethargy & depression
  • Body temperature over 39.6°C

Because Pneumonia is likely the result of a viral infection, calves showing symptoms should be isolated as soon as possible, and you may need respiratory stimulants and anti-inflammatory medication, as well as antibiotics, in order to stave off the illness. It should be noted also that Pneumonia may retard a calf's bodily development even after it is cured.

To reduce the chances of Pneumonia becoming an issue, ensure that each calf enclosure has ample ventilation and that their sleeping areas are not prone to draughts or becoming damp. A build up of ammonia can result in Pneumonia becoming more prevalent, which is why it is important to clean feeding areas regularly and not allow waste products to lie around.

Congenital Heart Defects

There is absolutely nothing you can do to prevent heart defects, but believe us when we say that they are more common in calves than you would feel comfortable believing. This is why we think it is essential for every livestock farmer to know the signs of congenital heart defects and generally be aware of them.
Symptoms of congenital heart defects include:

  • Poor feeding
  • Excessive Fatigue and lethargy
  • Increases susceptibility to Pneumonia
  • Regularly panting despite no physical activity having taken place
  • Increased pulse whilst feeding, during its immediate aftermath, or after mild exercise

Being aware of these defects will allow you to anticipate the needs of your calf as it grows into adulthood, though you may want to bear in mind that sometimes heart defects may heal themselves over time. Calves with heart defects may require cardiac stimulants in order to grow healthily.


Caused by a bacterial infection, though it starts off in the mouth if left untreated Diphtheria can travel into the lungs and result in Pneumonia. Before this happens however Diphtheria will cause:

  • Depression
  • Cheek inflammation
  • Soreness and swelling
  • High body temperature
  • Painful mouth and tongue ulcers
  • Reluctance to feed (due to oral discomfort)

The best method of preventing diphtheria is to prevent any oral injury from occurring. This can be difficult, but a good way of doing this would be to keep calves away from thistles, bushes, and other sharp objects that they might try to put in their mouths, like loose screws or nails. Because it is unlikely that a calf will never cut its mouth, we also suggest that you keep all feeding equipment and living areas clean and disinfected.

Antibiotics are the most effective treatment when it comes to Diphtheria, and there are a wide range of them available that are capable of curing the disease. Though it is a bacterial infection and therefore less contagious than a viral one (barely), calves with Diphtheria should be quarantined in order to ward again additional infections and to protect other calves.

Post By Alem Al-Khamiri