Between January and April 2007, 424 calves under 22 days of age from 108 Dutch dairy herds were sampled to estimate the prevalence of non-normal faeces (‘custard-like’—yellowish-coloured with custard consistency or diarrhoea: watery-like faeces) and the shedding of enteropathogens Escherichia coli K99 ( E. coli), Coronavirus, Cryptosporidium parvum ( C. parvum), Rotavirus and Clostridium perfringens ( Cl. perfringens). In addition, information was collected on animal characteristics and herd-management practices. The probability of detecting each one of five enteropathogens given a calf with ‘custard-like’ faeces or diarrhoea was estimated using Bayes’ rule and was based on the predicted probabilities from a multinominal model including each of five enteropathogens as independent variables. In addition, putative risk factors for the presence of each of five enteropathogens were analysed using logistic regression models with random herd effects.
Fifty-seven percent of calves had faeces of normal colour (brownish) and consistency (firm), 23.8% (95%CI: 19.8–28.2%) had ‘custard-like’ faeces and 19.1% (95%CI: 15.5–23.2%) had diarrhoea. E. coli was the least detected enteropathogen (2.6% (95%CI: 1.3–4.6%) of calves, 9% (95%CI: 5–16%) of herds) and Cl. perfringens was most detected (54.0% (95%CI: 49.1–58.8%) of calves, 85% (95%CI: 77–91%) of herds). E. coli and Coronavirus were detected incidentally in only one or two calves per herd, whereas C. parvum and Cl. perfringens were frequently detected in up to four calves per herd. For calves with ‘custard-like’ faeces, the probability of detecting Rotavirus from a calf in its first week of age was 0.31 whereas for a calf in its second week, there was a 0.66 probability of detecting C. parvum. The probabilities of detecting E. coli, Rotavirus and C. parvum in calves with diarrhoea in their first week of age were 0.10, 0.20 and 0.43, respectively. In calves with diarrhoea between 1 and 2 weeks of age, the probability of detecting enteropathogens was 0.43 for C. parvum. None of the tested enteropathogens were related to ‘custard-like’ faeces or diarrhoea in the third week of age.
Putative risk factors for E. coli, Coronavirus and C. parvum included the presence of peer-calves shedding Coronavirus, C. parvum or Rotavirus, respectively. Additionally, managerial risk factors such as non-optimal hygienic housing (for Coronavirus) and the routine use of antibiotics for diarrhoeic calves (for C. parvum) were found. No animal or managerial factors were associated with shedding of Cl. perfringens.