Pre Weaning E.coli Scours

Scouring piglets can be a time consuming, money-draining problem in the farrowing shed. Problems arise as a result of interaction between the pathogens and poor environment and nutrition. The severity of scours will increase if there are cold draughts, fluctuating temperatures, moist pens, poor milk flow from the sow or anaemic piglets.


Escherichia coli is a bacteria that is the main causative agent of piglet scours. The scour normally starts within the first 24-48 hours of life (but may not start until day 5), and is more common in gilt litters and piglets that do not get a good drink of colostrum eg runts, splaylegs. The bacteria attach to the intestine via pilli and secrete toxins which causes electrolytes and fluid to be secreted into the intestine and be lost from the body. The scour is usually watery to pasty, yellow to white in colour. The piglets become thin, weak and dehydrated very quickly. Death is common in E. coli scours.


1. Fluid therapy. It is most important that the electrolytes that are lost in the scour are replaced. This can be done by providing electrolytes in a clean bowl, by stomach tubing or injecting into the abdominal cavity.

2. Antibiotics. An antibiotic can be prescribed pending the results of culture and sensitivity testing of the E. coli isolated.

3. Absorbents. Spreading of the absorbent (eg bentonite) on the floor will reduce the amount of fluid lost in the scour.


1. Vaccination* of sows and gilts 3 weeks before farrowing will boost the antibodies contained in their colostrum and improve the piglet immunity. (Gilts need 2 shots before this time.)

2. Temperature to be at 32-36oC for the first 48 hours then 30-32oC for the rest of the week

3. Power pressure cleaning and disinfecting of crates between batches.

* There are a number of different strains of E. coli and the commercial vaccines cover most of these strains. However if the strain is not responding to the commercial vaccines, an autogenous vaccine can be developed.