Newborn Calf Respiratory Diseases and Calf Scours: Causes and Treatments

Dr. Erika Nagorske

Feb 19, 2024

Newborn beef calves are now sprinkled across the countryside. Early calf care and the right vaccination protocols can mitigate the risk and severity of sickness, setting calves up for success. Vaccines will help reduce the number of calves you’ll need to treat, minimize death loss, and improve overall herd profitability.

Even though calves don’t have a fully functioning immune system at birth, they’re still able to respond to some vaccines.

The cattle industry is doing a lot of work to understand when calves will respond to which vaccines, but overall there is a good understanding that calves will respond to certain vaccines right away — including vaccines for respiratory disease and scours.

Dr. Erika Nagorske, a practicing veterinarian with Southwest Veterinary Services, FBN®’s official veterinary partner, shares why it’s important to think about a vaccination program and what the disease costs are for both the industry and individual operations.

Watch Now: How to Prevent Respiratory Disease in Newborn Calves

Watch Dr. Nagorske in the video “How to Prevent Respiratory Disease in Newborn Calves” or continue reading the important points below. 

The Cost of Respiratory Disease in Cattle

The beef industry loses about $1 billion annually due to cattle affected by respiratory challenges. This impacts 1 in 5 cows.

Respiratory disease is the most common cause of morbidity and mortality in feedlots, according to NAHMS. These statistics show us that respiratory disease is a significant challenge. The industry would benefit as a whole by minimizing the disease pressure in every way we can.

How Does Respiratory Disease Affect a Farm or Ranch P&L?

Respiratory disease impacts profitability in more than just actual treatment costs. Labor and facilities required to treat sick animals also have a cost.

Calves affected by respiratory disease will see their growth affected and will be behind the rest of the herd by 15-30 days. Finally, death loss has its obvious effects on profitability. 

Intranasal Respiratory Disease Vaccines

The two main options for safe vaccines to give at birth are:

Calf Scours

The second condition we can address through vaccines at birth is calf scours. If a calf has a scour event, there is significant risk for them to develop respiratory disease.

It’s also important to remember that calves amplify the pathogen load when they’re sick, so it’s much easier for them to spread disease to other calves. 

Scour Vaccines for Calves

The two main options for newborn calf scour vaccines are:

What Experts Recommend

Work with your veterinarian to determine which protocol is best for your specific operation. This can change from year-to-year and will depend on if you’re purchasing different cows or the disease pressure changes on your farm. 

Find Animal Health Products on FBN®

FBN puts Farmers First® by providing animal health expertise, a broad product portfolio to choose from representing all the main manufacturers and the convenience of online shopping with products delivered right to your doorstep.

Get the vaccines, pharmaceuticals, and other key animal health products delivered directly to you from FBN. Plus, the FBN Pharmacy has prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals available in many U.S. states also ready for rapid, farm-direct delivery.


The above is provided for information purposes only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any condition. This information does not cover all possible variables, conditions, reactions, or risks relating to any topic, medication, or product and should not be considered complete. Certain products or medications may have risks and you should always consult your local veterinarian concerning the treatment of your animals. 

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Dr. Erika Nagorske

Feb 19, 2024

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