Summer coccidiosis risk

Summer coccidiosis risk

The summer months are a peak risk period for outbreaks of coccidiosis in spring born suckled calves and dairy youngstock.

“Coccidiosis is caused by the common Eimeria parasite and typically affects calves between three weeks and six months of age. Disease outbreaks – typically manifesting as diarrhoea – are particularly common around weaning,” says Kate Oleszko from Volac.

Calves ingest coccidia oocysts from their environment and the clinical signs of disease appear anytime from 12-21 days after ingestion of the parasite. Affected animals scour, sometimes with blood, and can be seen straining.

“Infection can cause significant gut damage and weight loss can be significant. Severe outbreaks can result in mortalities or chronic poor doers,” says Ms Oleszko.

She adds that the parasitic infection can easily be passed between calves through contact with infected faeces, so good pen hygiene is important.

“Overcrowding or inadequate disinfection of pens between batches of calves are key risk factors – as is using insufficient or inferior quality bedding. Try not to let calves contaminate their feed or water with faeces either. However, whilst most ruminant animals excrete some coccidial oocysts in their faeces most of the time, not all farms see clinical disease. The outcome of any infection in calves is a balance between the infection pressure from coccidial oocysts in the environment, calf immunity and stress factors such as overstocking, poor hygiene or adverse weather events.”

Ms Oleszko advises farms struggling with this disease to discuss control approaches with their vet.

“Prevention is key with this disease. Once you see cases of coccidiosis in your calves you are too late because gut damage will already have occurred and affected animals are likely to take longer to reach target weight and may well be more susceptible to other disease threats, such as pneumonia.”

How to reduce the disease risk:

  • Have all in, all out calf pens with good hygiene between batches
  • Prevent faecal contamination of drinking water, as well as forage and concentrate portions of the diet
  • Isolate any clinically affected calves because they will be contaminating their rearing environment and creating an infection risk to other animals

Published on: 04 October 2022

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