Diarrhoea calves

Diarrhoea is an effect of a disorder in the digestion by an infectious or non-infectious cause.


The cause of diarrhoea can be infectious, non-infectious or can be a combined cause.

Infectious causes that is important for dairy farming:

  • viruses: Rota, Corona, BVD
  • bacteria: E-coli, Salmonella typhimurium, Salmonella Dublin
  • protozoa: Cryptosporidiosis, Coccidiosis, giardia

Non-infectious causes can be:

  • feeding mistakes: variable feeding times, mixing mistakes, use of dirty materials or leads
  • wrong drinking temperature, overfeeding, mixed offers of milk and roughage
  • feeding diarrhoea: to fat cow’s milk, habituation to milk powder in the first week
  • housing: moisture, tour, contaminated materials
  • medications: side effects, wrong application


In the intestine of the calf there is a tight balance between resorption and secretion (about 6 litres per hour). This balance can be disrupted by different infectious or non-infectious causes. The effect of this loose of big quantities of moisture with bowel movement: diarrhoea.

The orders in which the phenomena occur in moisture loss through the intestine are: 

  • lethargy
  • decreased appetite
  • sucking reflex is weak or absent
  • cold nose, ears and legs due to reduced blood flow
  • dehydration symptoms (deep eyes, reduced skin elasticity)
  • gasping due to a compensation of the acidification of the calf
  • the calves are limp and lay down
  • in the final phase occurs undercooling (< 38 °C), possibly becoming a shock.

Depending on the cause, these symptoms can come mild to very quickly along (within hours).


The treatment is aimed to let the intestinal flora function normally. First, it is meant to cure the calf. At the same time it takes care that the disease will not spread. It is important to start early with the treatment, that means when the first symptoms occur. The earlier the treatment, the better the results.

First the lifesaving measures:

  • Track down the cause of the diarrhoea to this deal with it in a proper way. This can be done with the help of a diarrhoea test of Alpuro Breeding, which Alpuro Breeding will do.
  • Upgrade the moisture-/ electrolytes balance: replace the milk with water with Alvital (50 g/l) for up to 2 days (4 power supplies). The amount of moisture has to provide for maintenance and compensate for losses (this is at a 50 kg calf,  up to 10 litres a day). It is important to provide moisture several times a day. Verify if the sucking reflex at the calf is still present and use the thirst feeling of the calf. When feeding by a stomach tube, of calves that have no sucking reflex, the calf must have free disposal over water.
  • Administer antibiotics to prevent secondary bacterial infections.
  • Warm up the calf, by laying it on a rubber mat or in the straw. Extra warming with a gas heated brooder or heat lamp, can prevent under cooling.
  • At very weak calves that have lost a lot of moisture in a short period of time, an electrolytes drip can be lifesaving. However, by applying the measures from above quickly, a drip can be avoided. The aftercare of a calf that has had a drip is extremely important.

Secondly, there are the restorative measures if the diarrhoea is over:

  • Providing of intestine protecting resources such as: flaxseed flour (2 x daily 5 to 10 grams per calf) or linseed mucus
  • Providing of lactic acid forming bacteria (buttermilk or unpasteurized yoghurt).

After the cure additional trace elements and minerals may be provided (Altop: 30 grams per calf per day). When diarrhoea occurs and to prevent further consequences for the rest of the couple, always check the following cases and adjust where necessary:

  • Check milk production and dispensing
  • Clean the feeding system and ensure optimal hygiene
  • Keep stable and grates dry
  • If the weather conditions ask, heat up the stables
  • Eventually feed 3 times a day
  • The antibiotics for individual treatment can be determined best with your vegetarian.

Contact and address

Alpuro Breeding

Elspeterweg 60

3888 MX Uddel


Tel.: +31 577 40 81 11


Calf rearing

  • Products
  • Nutrition
  • Health
  • Housing
  • What are cookies?

    We make use of cookies on this website. Cookies are small text files that a website places on your computer, tablet or mobile phone when you visit the website. Information about your website visit is stored in these cookies.


    We use functional and analytical cookies. The functional cookies are necessary for the website to work properly and with the analytical cookies we are able to measure the website visits. The cookies are therefore placed by default and will not be deleted if you do not accept the cookies.

    Would you like more information about cookies?

    Take a look at the website of Consumentenbond NL.
  • Hide this message