Coccidiosis is a widespread problem for both calf rearers and farmers with suckler cows. The parasite destroys the cells of the lining of the digestive tract and there is a reduction in nutrient absorption which reduces growth rates and feed conversion efficiency. The damage done to the gut can linger for months or even for the lifetime of the animal. Death can occur in severe cases.

Calves become infected by consuming coccidiosis eggs from pasture, feed, water, and bedding; or by licking contaminated calves. The parasite can exist for months in their surroundings and thrives in a moist, airy environment. The calf shed and all its contents need to be thoroughly cleaned between batches of calves.

Signs of the disease include watery diarrhoea, sometimes with blood and straining. Calves will have muck on their tails and backends. They will also lack bloom and appear gaunt & weak. The disease usually appears after a period of stress such as weaning, moving or a nutritional change. Although adult cattle are rarely affected, they pass the coccidiosis eggs in their muck and serve as a source of infection for calves. Coccidiosis is seen in animals up to 2 years old, and is particularly common in calves between 3 weeks and 6 months of age.

Prevention of coccidiosis includes reducing the stocking density and bedding up well to prevent infection. Feed and water troughs should be off the ground and buildings should be cleaned & disinfected between groups. Also, you should avoid mixing different ages of calves. Where coccidiosis has been diagnosed by your vet, Deccox can be incorporated into calf weaner pellets can be an effective treatment and prevention. The other option for treatment and prevention is Vecoxan. Vecoxan works for 2-3 weeks after administration and so timing of treatment is critical.

Sally Cornforth R-SQP

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