Teagasc Adviser, Anthony O'Connor recently highlighted that coccidiosis has been on the increase in recent years, due mainly to the late spring, with the resultant late turnout of stock leading to a build-up of infection in calf bedding and creep area.
He says it’s all about hygiene and cleanliness as the calving season progresses.
As with Cryptosporidia, Coccidiosis is caused by protozoa.
Cattle will develop immunity to the condition over time but young calves with an underdeveloped immune system placed in a dirty environment can succumb to the disease.
A dirty environment leaves calves more likely to ingest high numbers of the immature protozoa. Coccidiosis tends to be seen in calves from about 3 weeks old up to about 6 months.
Infected calves pass out large numbers of Oocytes which can contaminate the environment for other calves. The Oocytes are resistant and can survive for long periods in the environment (sheds etc)
The Coccidia can cause a watery scour because they damage the mucosa of the intestine. Damage to the intestine reduces the calf's ability to absorb fluids and nutrients and so calves that are infected can become dehydrates, may start to pass blood, shed part of the intestine lining and can become weak and uncoordinated.
Calves that have the condition can often be seen straining.
Probably the biggest economic loss is the poor thrive in animals that are affected. In many herds there may be sub clinical infection where animals show very little symptoms and will recover with time but thrive will be affected.
According to Teagasc if a herd has had trouble with Coccidia in the past then they need to be vigilant because it can easily reoccur particularly where hygiene is poor.
In this case herds will often dose calves with Vecoxan (diclurazil) or Baycox (toltrazuril) as a prophylactic.
Typically calves will be given an oral dose of between 20-30ml depending on the weight of the calf.
Calves that are scouring become dehydrated and should receive normal electrolyte therapy and be removed from the group.
Prevention is better than cure.
Here, Teagasc says hygiene is hugely important.
Increase the amount of straw bedding used in the calve areas. Try and prevent the build-up of faecal contamination around feed and water troughs.
Avoid mixing of different ages of calves as younger calves will be more susceptible.
If you have had a problem make sure sheds are cleaned and disinfected with a strong disinfectant (as recommended by your Vet) between batches of calves. Disinfectant choice that kills oocytes is critical.
Consult your Vet on the most effective disinfectant to use.
The use of hydrated lime as an additional disinfectant is recommended.
Animals can be given licenced medication as already mentioned to prevent the disease.
In some areas medicated licks containing Coccidistats are used under prescription. Please note that there is no vaccine available against Coccidia
If you suspect that there is an outbreak of Coccidiosis infection in your calves, prompt action is vital.
Consult with your veterinary surgeon immediately on your suspicions. It is also important that in a scour outbreak that a scour sample is taken to your local Vet and sent to a veterinary laboratory to identify the causal organism and confirm that it is Coccidiosis.
Treatment of calves will be very much dependent on the outcome of the sample results.
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