Reduced weaning weights, prolonged recovery and weight loss together with treatment and labour expenses mean that Coccidiosis is a costly inconvenience for farmers and an uncomfortable experience for calves, but what is it and how do you tackle it on your farm?
Similar to Cryptosporidium, Coccidiosis is caused by protozoa (a single-celled parasite). The protozoa responsible for Coccidiosis is called Eimeria spp., of which there are many species-specific strains, with only some causing disease in cattle.
This parasite invades the calf’s large intestine, later breaking out of the gut lining causing damage to the intestine. It then produces millions of oocysts (eggs) inside the infected calf which are then shed in the faeces and consequently, into the environment, leaving all calves within a living space susceptible to infection.
Oocyst shedding reaches its peak about 3 weeks after the animal first ingested the parasite and can be seen up to 6 months. Oocysts are capable of surviving for long periods of time in the environment.
Because the intestine is damaged, watery scour/diarrhoea is common. It may have blood and mucus in it causing staining of the tail and perineal area.
Since the calf’s ability to absorb nutrients is also affected, dehydration and associated symptoms such as weakness may be evident. Appetite loss and resulting weight loss are also a concern.
Subclinical infections may cause great economic loss within a group because clinical signs may be subtle. Therefore, it is important to watch out for these subclinical symptoms:
- dull appearance
- weight loss
- reduced appetite and growth rates
Veterinary diagnosis through herd examination of clinical/subclinical signs and faecal samples build an overall picture to achieve a successful diagnosis.
7 Smart Steps for Stopping the Scour
Effective management is very important to control coccidian. The following measures will help:
- Provide clean, dry bedding to reduce the risk of contamination
- Alternate positions of feeding and drinking troughs
- Reduce stocking density to minimise stress
- Older cattle are a risk factor for spreading the infection to younger calves. Rear calves of the same age in all-in, all-out systems
- Use preventative medicine such as Coxx-Kure
- Implement a high standard of biosecurity – foot bathing, cleanliness and disinfectants are extremely valuable tools to eliminate the parasites from the environment
- Provide good ventilation as oocyst build-up is more common in warm moist areas
10 Steps to Better Biosecurity
- Remove all manure, straw and organic matter
- Sweep/blow out dust
- Pre-clean all areas with a detergent such as Omniclean from Pharvet
- Leave to work for 15-20 minutes
- Rinse thoroughly with clean water under high pressure
- Allow to dry
- Apply Pharvet’s Omnicide at a rate of 1:150
- Once dry, apply Pharvet’s OmniCox at a rate of 1:30
- Allow to dry for 2 hours
- Apply clean, dry bedding