Cut out Calf Coccidiosis
Saturday 12 March 2022
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?
Calf CoccidiosisSimilar 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.
Clinical SignsBecause 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: