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How to reduce the ill effects of coccidiosis in dairy and beef calves


Coccidiosis is an intestinal disease that affects young dairy and beef calves, often causing rapid weight loss, reduced growth and a dull appearance.

However, there are some simple ways to prevent this disease and protect the calves on your farm. These include reducing stress levels in calves and using Uniblock’s Coxxicalf lick bucket. This is designed for dairy and beef calves post-weaning to help improve their health and performance at this crucial transition stage of their journey from birth to adulthood.

Various changes often take place around weaning such as change of diet, social group and housing. All of these factors lead to stress, and coccidiosis is an opportunist (a disease that develops when other stress factors are present). Coccidiosis is often seen three to four weeks after mixing groups of recently weaned calves.

Coccidiosis can occur in calves both in the house or at grass, however the timing of infection will depend on various factors. These include things such as hygiene of environment, stocking rate and coccidia species present. It is important to avoid access to contaminated water courses at grazing.

In clinical cases of coccidiosis, calves will present with a watery diarrhoea which can be accompanied by straining, mucus and blood. It often causes rapid weight loss resulting in anorexia, dehydration and abdominal pain.

A large percentage of calves are infected sub-clinically as their immune system is able to fight gut damage caused by coccidia. This immune response comes at a price as it uses energy which could otherwise be used for growth. These calves will have reduced appetite, poorer weight gain, and dull coat compared to a healthy calf.  

How to reduce the risk of coccidiosis

Coxxicalf is a bucket based on seaweed, yeast and essential oils (poly phenols), all of which will improve calf rumen digestion, reduce protein degradability (which may reduce the energy required for ammonia excretion - so more for immunity) and have been shown to kill protozoa. The life cycle of coccidiosis is approximately 21 days so it is recommended that buckets are placed with animals before any risks of stress occurs.

Coxxicalf also provides full mineral supplementation at grass, grass tends to lack various trace elements throughout the grazing period. Therefore, Coxxicalf allows for full protection at grass.

Intakes of 50–100g/calf/day can be expected if one bucket per 15 calves is provided. Coxxicalf costs approximately 13-26c/head/day, depending on intakes. Prevention is cheaper than cure in terms of poor performance and health, as well as time spent treating the sick calves. 

The bucket should be placed in well-trafficked areas to encourage intakes, such as close to water trough or sheltered area. Buckets are easily moved as the calves move from paddock to paddock.

In the case of an outbreak, it is best to treat all calves even if only one is showing symptoms as it is likely to have contaminated others sub-clinically. However, prevention is always better than cure. In addition to providing Coxxicalf, ensure calves are always moved to clean pasture regularly and avoid poaching around troughs or creep feeders as coccidiosis thrives on moisture.

The advantages of using Coxxicalf

  • Contains anti-coccidia properties
  • Full mineral supplementation at grass
  • Reduces disease and ill-thrift
  • Labour saving
  • Cost effective

For more information, check out the Uniblock website, Facebook or Twitter or you can call +353 (0) 429 336052.