A new oral rehydration supplement can help calves more effectively recover from the implications of the dehydration suffered due to diarrhoea.

Digestive disorders are the main cause of morbidity and mortality in calves and the implications on future performance can result in significant financial losses, according to Georgina Thomas, young animal feed manager with Trouw Nutrition GB.

She said it is not necessarily diarrhoea itself that causes the high levels of mortality, but the associated dehydration. Rehydration strategies based on oral rehydration solutions remain an essential weapon in the battle against diarrhoea, and their effectiveness can be improved.

“Many rehydration solutions include high amounts of glucose. At the same time, they commonly have a high sodium concentration. This combination can reduce the effectiveness of the product due to relative concentration compared to the blood, which is measured as osmolality.”

Blood and bodily fluids have an osmolality of around 300mOsm/kg. Anything higher is termed hypertonic and has the effect of pulling more water from the body, increasing the impact of dehydration. A liquid lower than 300mOsm/kg is called hypotonic and has the reverse effect, supporting absorption from the gut into the body.

Effective oral supplements will be hypotonic, yet many oral rehydration solutions are hypertonic which can reduce absorption and can therefore be less effective in controlling dehydration.

It is important to continue feeding milk or milk replacer to ensure the calf is being supplied with energy and an oral supplement should be offered between milk feeds. It should never be mixed with the milk, as this will make the pH too high in the abomasum and therefore interfere with curd formation.

OsmoFit is a new dietetic water-soluble oral rehydration solution for calves designed for use alongside continued feeding of milk or milk replacer. It contains lower levels of sodium and glucose than other rehydration solutions, and in turn helps to stabilise the water and electrolyte balance by providing the required salts and sugars in the optimum amounts. It can be used during periods of, and recovery from diarrhoea and should be provided as soon as calves show signs of dehydration.