Diarrhoeic calves loose buffers and fluids. They become acidic and dehydrated. That is why diarrhoeic calves loose appetite. Acidosis can be treated by administration of buffers. Buffers help diarrheic calves to regain appetite. In the past buffer solutions were administered into the blood in calves with severe diarrhoea, and into rumen in calves with light diarrhoea.
Recently buffer pills became available (Bi-PILL – bicarbonate pill, www.profs-products.com) (figure 1 and 2). These pills are made from sodium bicarbonate. Pills may be administered by hand or by pill applicator: Grab the tooth free rim, tickle the palate until the calf opens its mouth, carefully insert the pill into the oral cavity, and shut the calfs mouth for a short time. The pill is swallowed into rumen.
Scientific studies indicate that light acidosis in diarrhoeic calves can be treated successfully with bicarbonate pills: Blood pH increased after Bi-PILL administration, wheres blood pH decreased when left untreated (figure 3). Diarrhoeic calves showed better appetite when treated with Bi-PILL.
The sooner treatment starts, the better: Administer one bicarbonate pill when the first signs of diarrhoea are diagnosed, and one pill each after the next three meals. In suckler cow management systems more than one pill at a time may be given. Diarrhoeic calves are best offered a daily milk ration of 12% of their body mass partitioned into two or three meals. Between milk meals water may be offered or a solution composed according to WHO recommendations.
Some diarrhoeic calves also suffer from rumen acidosis that may also be treated with Bi-PILL administration.