What the deuce? What does good calf poop actually look like?

As calf raisers, many of us have been falsely convinced that scours or calf diarrhea is a “normal” occurrence.

Unfortunately, there is nothing “normal” about having diarrhea, and I think you could probably agree with that!

After attending a fantastic presentation by Dr. Teri Ollivett at the annual Dairy Calf and Heifer Association conference, it confirmed a lot of the information we have gathered over the years, “just because scours in calves are common DOES NOT mean it’s normal.” -Dr. Ollivett.

While we were struggling with salmonella in the calves we were raising for a few years, we started to believe this might just be the new normal. While we didn’t want to accept it, we had exhausted many options in our calf program trying to find the answer. We tried everything from different milk replacers, to different vaccines, to different feed additives.

We did stumble upon an amazing prebiotic/probiotic in our search for a cure, Surveillance, that was keeping our heads above water, we knew there was more to it. 

While the Surveillance helped a ton, taking the severity and frequency of scour cases down the days following the initial scour on arrival, we knew there were still areas of improvement.

It felt like there was no answer. Finally, when we narrowed down the source and the cause of these scours, it felt like we had won the lottery. We finally had an idea of what direction to go. 

After a serious overhaul of the maternity pen, including better ventilation, stricter cleaning schedules, and less cows and calves per calving pen, we took a huge leap in the right direction, but we were still having some loose ends that we wanted to get tied up. Scours on arrival decreased from 100% to around 20%, but we still felt we could do better. 

At the time, we were using a 21% protein 19% fat milk replacer with Bovatec and Clarifly as the only extra additives. We heard about a new formula in mid 2021, and to be honest, after being on the same one for 3 years and with it going so well, we were hesitant to fix something that wasn’t necessarily broken. With a little boost in confidence from the feedback from other farms, we decided the new product would be worth a try. 

Much to our surprise, it worked just as well and then some. That last 20% of scours we were having on arrival were being cleaned up within 1-2 feedings with the new Performance formula.

We went from taking scour pictures with our phone to taking WOW look at those amazing poop pictures (if you know you know!).  

We find it very helpful to take pictures. I know it’s not so cool when you are going through your phone and you have pictures of poop but it gives you a good reference point. Seasons changing, calving amounts increasing and decreasing, and several other points of direction can cause changes in manure quality. As calf feeders it’s a good idea to have a log of those things, to help pinpoint when things went wrong and also when things go right, like this! 

What’s so special about it? Well, it has a couple extra goodies in it that we already knew worked, like Oregano Oil and a DFM (in addition to feeding Surveillance), but it also had some things in it that we hadn’t yet tried in our calf barn, including tributyrate, and plasma. 

If you feel like your calf program needs an extra boost, consider looking into your milk replacer quality and additives to see if there is something that you can change to make your calves go from good to great!

If you’re interested in learning more about the milk replacer we use on our farm, click this link:


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