Vets urged to highlight the benefits of ORT for scouring calves - Veterinary Practice
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Vets urged to highlight the benefits of ORT for scouring calves

The number of cases seen in the first month of age makes early detection and rapid management of the condition a priority

Vets are being urged to highlight the benefits of administering oral rehydration therapy (ORT) to scouring calves to farmers in a bid to help save the industry £60 million a year (DEFRA, 2003).

It has been reported that about 170,000 of calves born alive each year die in their first month of life and it is estimated that up to 50 percent of deaths are caused by scour, with over 48 percent of dairy heifer calves diagnosed with scour preweaning. The number of cases seen in the first month of age makes early detection and rapid management of the condition a priority to avoid unnecessary financial losses and impact on animal welfare.

The most common cause of mortality in scouring animals is dehydration as a result of increased loss of fluids with scour, leading to a decreased ability to digest and absorb nutrients, decreased appetite and voluntary food intake, resulting in significant decreases in daily live weight gain (DLWG). This impact on growth rate can be costly and it is estimated to cost £57.94 per cow in a beef herd which means that the total cost of a scour outbreak in a 100-cow suckler herd (assuming 90 calves born) is over £5,000. In a dairy herd, scour may require an average of 3.76 days treatment and add approximately 13 days to the growth period, which will have knock on effects on the serving age and age at first calving (AFC). Each extra day on the AFC costs £2.87 per day, so a case of scour could add an additional £37.31 onto rearing costs. Further, as each day that a calf is sick reduces its first lactation by 126 litres, at a cost of 27.77ppl (August 2020 milk price), this amounts to approximately £132 worth of milk lost in the first lactation, per calf, per scour incident.

Ceva Animal Health, manufacturer of oral rehydration therapy gel Rehydion, has launched a new “Making Milk Matter Against Scour” campaign to encourage farmers to use ORT during scouring to provide sufficient essential electrolytes to correct acidosis, while still continuing with milk feeding. Milk is the best source of energy and fluid replacement for scouring calves and stopping milk has been shown to have no impact on the resolution of scour. In fact, calves left on milk during scour can continue to gain weight. The Making Milk Matter Against Scour initiative is being backed by a hard-hitting PR and advertising campaign and a social media initiative.

During the campaign Ceva will be running surveys to capture both vets’ and farmers’ experiences of scour and ORT. There will be a prize draw from completed entries, with 10 vets receiving a £10 Amazon voucher.

“The ‘Making Milk Matter Against Scour’ campaign will help highlight the financial and welfare benefits of using ORT at the first signs of scour and the importance of administering it alongside milk which is the best source of energy and will help calves maintain weight gain,” says Stephenie Clarke, product manager at Ceva Animal Health. “The scour survey will provide us with an insight into the use of ORT in practice and on farm to help us drive improvements across the industry.”

James Adams, BVSc FHEA MRCVS, farm animal lead at Langford Vets, University of Bristol, adds: “If I could offer one piece of advice to farmers with scouring animals it would be to ensure hydration as dehydration is what kills! Rehydrating an animal is essential if an animal is to be able to regain its normal function and fend off any disease.

“We’ve been using Rehydion in our vet practice for approximately two years and we mainly recommend that farmers use it in cattle, but our clients also use it in lambs and kids. We get a lot of positive feedback from farmers on Rehydion, as they feel that it is effective and convenient to use, which aids compliance, and it can be given with milk, which is essential for maintaining a positive energy status.”

For further information on the “Making Milk Matter Against Scour” initiative visit the website, contact your local Ceva Account Manager, call Ceva on 01494 781510 or email To participate in the vet survey go to


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