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Diarrhoea is one of the most common health problems amongst young calves. Approximately one third of all calves suffer from diarrhoea during their first two weeks of life and this is a common cause of death in young calves The financial losses resulting from diarrhoea are enormous; the cost of treatment, failure of calves gaining weight, the extra work to farmers and stock fatalities. A distinction is made in principle between non-infectious causes (usually feed-related) and infectious causes of diarrhoeal diseases; Infectious is most common causing approximately 80% of cases. In the majority of cases, pathogens are of primary importance.

Non Infectious causes include:

  • Colostrum supply - it is estimated approx 50% of NZ calves receive insufficient colostrum, leading to reduced immunit
  • Feeding issues - too much/too little, too warm/too cold, frequency
  • Hygiene and management - Poor housing, hygiene, draughts,
  • Stress - leaving mother, moving farms

These factors can lead to diarrhoea or can be predisposing factors which allow secondary infections to invade.

Infectious causes include:

  • Viruses - rotaviruses and coronaviruses
  • Bacteria - E. coli, Salmonella
  • Unicellular parasites - cryptosporidia, coccidia

Irrespective of the cause of diarrhoea the consequences to the animal are essentially the same and need to be addressed urgently.


  • Dehydration
  • Loss of electrolytes
  • Acidosis
  • Energy deficit

Oral rehydration solutions, such as Glutellac, can address these consequences.