Now I keep two or three together in a pen. So when I notice a puddle of runny poop, I have to figure out which calf did it. Sometimes I'm lucky enough to actually see the calf in action, which removes all doubt. Other times, I can tell by looking at the calf's back end for nasty hind-quarters and tail. If I have any doubt at all, every calf in the pen gets a pill.
When you buy bottle calves, they usually do get scours at some point. You have removed them from a place where they picked up their mom's immunities and brought them onto a property with a whole new set of germs that your own cattle are immune to. You can almost bet on new bottle calves getting scours within the first week or two, and you can't just ignore scours: It can kill.
Because I only buy calves from people who sell nothing but healthy babies, the biggest cause of scours around here is the calf getting too much milk. I bought the current crop of calves to milk my cows for me, and they do a great job of that. However, before they can get used to so much rich milk, they usually have some diarrhea, and I get to treat the problem.
Initially, I give them a pill I get from the vet morning and night. Many times the pill does the job and I am done. However, if the pills don't fix them, I give them an electrolyte solution and sometimes even take them off the cow until they're OK. Of course, that means I have to milk the cow.
Here you see the pills and a "balling gun". You place a pill in the end of the gun, stick the end with the pill in it down the calf's throat, and push on the other end. This gets the pill past the point of no return, so the calf can't spit it out. Now, this was a cinch when I was younger. I'd corner the calf, straddle his neck facing forward, and do the job. Picture a 70-year-old woman with bad knees doing this and you will realize it isn't so simple now. This morning I dosed the wildest calf after he started nursing, because otherwise I couldn't catch him.
I had to dose the calves because here's what I found on poop patrol:
What you see here is one sample of healthy poop, at the bottom of the picture, and a sample of diarrhea poop at the top. After seeing this, I checked all three calves. Two of them had messy tails. I decided to give all three of them a pill, just for good luck. The good news is that it's only "milk scours". I know this because of the color. So if worse comes to worse, they'll get pulled off the cow and given electrolytes (pedialyte for calves) and I will end up with 2 1/2 gallons of milk tonight. And then I'll make butter tomorrow!
I apologize to all the mothers reading this. I'm sure the last thing you wanted to see this morning was a picture of poop, especially runny poop.