Prevention program decreases diarrhea

One outbreak of diarrhea in a heifer calf costs at least 150 euros per affected animal.

During calf rearing it is important to keep the infection pressure on the farm as low as possible. Diarrhea is an often occurring health issue in young calves. Research has shown that  53% of all calf mortality in the preweaning period is caused by diarrhea. Furthermore, a calf that suffers from diarrhea has a 17 times larger chance of contracting respiratory problems1. On top of that, the risk of premature culling of the dairy cow in the first lactation is 2.5 times larger1. This leads to substantial financial consequences for the dairy farmer. Research also reveals that an outbreak of diarrhea costs between 75 and 145 euros2.

Research shows that one case of diarrhea in a calf results in one week of no growth. The estimated future financial loss amounts to another 75 euros per calf. Therefore, an outbreak of diarrhea in a young heifer will cost at least 150 euros per affected animal.

A proper five-step prevention programme tackles the following aspects one by one:


  • Provide sufficient vitamins and trace minerals to the pregnant cow
  • Vaccinate the cow to induce the synthesis of specific antibodies, for a better colostrum quality
  • Shortly after birth, the calf may also be vaccinated

Colostrum management & nutrition

  • 15% (in L) of the body weight of the calf on the first day
  • 3 to 4 L within one hour after birth. Brix-value colostrum >22
  • Pay attention to hygiene: the somatic cell count (SCC) of the colostrum should be <100.000
  • Induce metabolic programming of the calf by providing a good milk replacer, forages, and concentrates

Housing & ventilation

The circumstances may vary greatly between farms. In general:

  • Raise youngstock separate from dairy cattle to prevent transmission of diseases
  • The age difference of calves within a group should be ≤ 8 weeks
  • Avoid overpopulation in the barn
  • Ensure sufficient space for each animal at the feeding site

Hygienic measures

  • All-in all-out with an empty period in-between to break infection chain
  • Make use of proper cleaning and disinfecting agents
  • Do not use high-pressure cleaning devices with animals present in the environment
  • The small droplets are a perfect transport medium for bacteria and viruses

Reduce Stress

Avoid stress with your calves:

  • Stressful situations result in a lower disease resistance
  • Consider a weaning programme, and avoid sudden dietary changes as much as possible
  • Avoid combining stressful activities, e.g., do not dehorn your calves at the day of weaning