AABP Executive Director Dr. Fred Gingrich is joined by Dr. Geoffrey Smith, a Technical Services Veterinary for Zoetis and member of the AABP ad hoc Cattle Youngstock Committee. If you are interested in joining the Cattle Youngstock Committee, please go to the committee page and click the link to send an email with your request. Include a brief bio statement and your interest in the committee for your nomination to serve on the committee.
Smith discusses the key pathophysiologic changes that occurs in calves with diarrhea which can help veterinarians explain to producers what needs addressed with therapy. Calves with diarrhea lose electrolytes, especially sodium, and have an increased amount of D-lactate leading to acidemia. Most cases of neonatal diarrhea are not due to bacterial pathogens and therefore electrolyte therapy to correct dehydration, hyponatremia and acidosis is warranted more often than antimicrobials.
Smith suggests an oral electrolyte solution that contains sodium (90-130 mEq/L), an alkalinizing agent (sodium bicarb, acetate or proprionate 50-60mEq/L), glycine which can help sodium absorption in the intestine, and correct osmolality (avoid products with high osmolality in the 700 or higher mOsm/L range). Smith also suggests evaluating the strong ion difference in the products to determine how well it can correct acidosis in the calf by adding the positive ions and subtracting the negative ions for a goal of 50-60 strong ion difference.
One common question from producers is if electrolytes can be added to milk. Smith cautions that sodium bicarbonate interferes with milk absorption and the osmolality of the final product can increase the risk for abomasitis if total solids are greater than 14-16. Separating electrolyte therapy from milk feeding by at least 2 hours and continuing electrolyte feeding once a day until the diarrhea is resolved. Smith also discusses the indications for IV fluid therapy to rapidly correct acidosis, dehydration and hyponatremia. This can be done with 4 mL/kg of hypertonic saline solution over 2-3 minutes followed by oral electrolyte therapy. If the calf is unable to suckle or stand, rapid correction of acidosis is most important and can be achieved by IV administration of hypertonic sodium bicarbonate (8.4% of 84 g/L) at a rate of 5-10 mL/kg over 5 minutes.
Smith wraps up our conversation by discussing the key points for prevention of calf scours by ensuring a clean environment, proper nutrition, proper vaccination, and an adequate amount of clean, high-quality colostrum immediately after birth. Oral electrolytes can also be fed during the high-risk period for calf diarrhea for a particular farm based on history working with the veterinarian of record. One recommendation is to use the electrolytes that are diluted 1:3 to 1:4 from the treatment dose.
AABP members can see previous presentations from Smith on calf diarrhea and fluid therapy by accessing the AABP Online CE portal through the Kansas State Beef Cattle Institute or by downloading the free BCI Mobile Conference App from your device’s store.