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Salmonella can be deadly to calves

July 24, 2013
POSTED BY: Gary Neubauer | DVM | Senior Manager | Dairy Technical Services | Zoetis

Calves of all ages can be susceptible to diseases. Salmonella is a fast-acting and hard-hitting bacterium that typically causes disease in older calves but also can hit newborns, causing Salmonella scours.

Calves affected by Salmonella can become ill very quickly. Symptoms include:

  • Not drinking milk
  • High fever
  • Watery and bloody stools
  • Dehydration

It is important to detect this disease early and begin replacing fluids with high-energy oral electrolytes as quickly as possible. If not, death can occur within 12 to 48 hours after the first signs of illness.

Calves infected with subclinical Salmonella can shed the organism in feces, urine, saliva and/or nasal secretions, contaminating everything they touch. Calves could be infected and shedding bacteria, but have yet to show symptoms.

Disease prevention is extremely important when caring for calves. Here are some tips to contain the disease and prevent calves’ exposure:

  • Thoroughly clean and sanitize all calf equipment after every use.
  • Handle sick calves last to avoid transmitting the disease.
  • Do not pool colostrum because Salmonella and other infections can be transferred from one cow to multiple calves.
  • Maintain clean, well-bedded calving facilities.
  • Move calves to a clean, individual hutch in the first day of life.
  • Restrict contact with other calves and older animals in the herd.

For more information on strategies for controlling Salmonella, talk to your veterinarian or visit


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