Diarrhea is the most common problem in calves less than 30 days of age and metabolic acidosis is the leading cause of death in calves with diarrhea. Depending on the cause of the intestinal disturbance, diarrhea can progress very rapidly from a very mild case of looseness to very severe dehydration in less than a day’s time.
A scouring calf is not only losing significant body water but also essential minerals (electrolytes) as well. Sodium is the major electrolyte lost which if not replaced, rapidly leads to depression, metabolic acidosis, and death. If calves are not consuming milk, dehydration leading to acidosis can worsen more quickly.
Choose the Right Electrolyte for the Situation
A good oral electrolyte should be administered at the first sign of diarrhea to rehydrate and replace the lost water and essential electrolytes, (sodium, potassium, chloride) and energy that keeps the calves body functioning and recovery of the ailment.
The KeyAg Electrolyte program consists of products formulated and balanced for the specific needs of calves under stress and in various stages of dehydration. These products contain a balance of electrolytes (minerals), carbohydrates (sugars), amino acids and alkalizing agents needed to supplement stressed calves and in rehydrating, replacing lost minerals and provide energy in dehydrated animals.
Stressed calves are predisposed to intestinal upsets that can cause scours. Maintenance or supplemental electrolytes can be used to prevent the calves from becoming severely dehydrated if used before scours become severe and dehydration occurs. However, maintenance products are less concentrated in electrolyte components and do not adequately address the needs of ongoing scouring and dehydrated calf.
KeyAg Oral Electrolyte Program
· OSMO 400– Formulated to provide the ideal balance and levels of mineral electrolytes, glycine, energy and alkalizing agents for optimum rehydration and replacement therapy.
· Custom Electrolyte – Formulated for maintaining electrolyte balance and hydration minerals in stressed calves predisposed to scours and maintaining hydration during stress and help rehydrate calves in the early stages of dehydration.
The Relationship of Scours, Dehydration and Metabolic Acidosis
Calves can lose 5% to 10% of their body weight in water within 1 day of scouring making it extremely important to monitor calves daily and treat them quickly when signs of scours start. The amount of water lost by scouring calves can be approximated by using symptoms shown Table 1. This amount of water loss needs to be replaced through the oral electrolyte solution over a 24-hour period.
Table 1. Progression of Dehydration
Feeding Rate of Electrolytes - Mix with Warm Water
· Custom Electrolyte - Maintenance and supplementation….25 grams/quart of water
· OSMO 400 - Therapy – 75 grams/quart of water
Note: for free choice application mix Custom Electrolyte with two quarts of warm water.
KeyAg Electrolytes Program Suggestions:
· Treat calves promptly at the first sign of scours and dehydration
· Ideally feed 2-3 hours after milk feeding and free choice at night
· Treat aggressively to correct dehydration and metabolic acidosis…if you do not the calf is likely to die
· Use the KeyAg Custom Electrolyte program formulated and balanced to provide the important elements the calf needs for recovery
Performance, Prevention and Treatment
Bacteria, viruses, parasites, and stress can all cause digestive upsets and scours in calves by irritating and damaging the gut wall and causing water loss along with important electrolytes. The role of an oral electrolyte is to rapidly replace water, acid-base electrolytes and provide an alkalizing effect on metabolic acidosis.
KeyAg electrolyte products are formulated to rapidly replace water and minerals that are lost during periods of scours. In simple terms, the rate of rehydration and effectiveness of the electrolyte is dependent on the balance and osmolality formula, i.e. electrolyte concentration, energy source and components to help increase the rate of adsorption.
Table 2. below shows the important balance of critical of oral electrolyte solutions.
Metabolic acidosis in calves with diarrhea has been thought to result primarily from intestinal bicarbonate loss, and secondary lactic acid production. Recent research suggests the metabolic acidosis in calves with diarrhea results from differences in strong ion balance with forestomach/intestinal fermentation of malabsorbed nutrients leading to increased serum concentrations of D-lactic acid.
Calves with diarrhea have a significantly higher serum concentration of D-lactic acid as compared with normal calves, Clinically, the result of metabolic acidosis is progressive CNS depression, decreased suckle reflex, weakness, ataxia, recumbency, coma, and then death.
Fluid loss more than 8% requires IV treatment, and over 12% loss can result in death.