Farmers with autumn calving herds are being encouraged to be vigilant for coccidiosis during the high-risk period, of three to four weeks post weaning, especially if the weather is mild and damp.
Phoebe McCarter, NADIS veterinary advisor, explains that coccidiosis remains a major issue across the industry and outlines how a combination of good husbandry, testing and prompt treatment with an appropriate coccidiocide can help gain control of the costly disease.
“Many herds are still calved outside during the autumn, so one of the first things to consider is whether your field is likely to harbour disease risk, as coccidiosis oocysts can survive year-to-year from previous stock,” she says.
“I’d also recommend fencing off any stagnant water or natural watercourses, as these can harbour higher levels of the parasite. Similarly, poached areas around troughs and feeders make for oocyst survival conditions, so frequent relocation of these is key.”
Indoor calving herds have different risks to monitor for, so it is vital to ensure bedding is kept clean and dry, with sheds cleaned down and disinfected appropriately.
Phoebe explains that on top of environmental pressures, periods of stress, such as weaning, castration or housing will leave calves more vulnerable to infection.
Therefore, at the first signs of disease, including weight loss, reduced appetite or a general dull appearance, it is essential to consult your vet to carry out diagnostic tests and oocyst counts, which will confirm the species and severity of the infection.
“There’s no point in treating calves for coccidiosis if it turns out to be a different disease with similar symptoms, such as cryptosporidiosis. You’ll end up wasting money on ineffective treatments and losing valuable recovery time,” says Phoebe.
Once coccidiosis has been diagnosed, the infected calves should be promptly treated, before clinical symptoms can develop further. Administering a toltrazuril based product, such as Baycox®, will stop the disease taking hold before it becomes more serious.
“This metaphylactic approach to treatment will help calves recover quickly and avoid major impacts on production, all while developing the calf’s immunity.
“As always, if you’re in any doubt about coccidiosis, speak to your vet about prevention and treatment, as the disease can rapidly eat into farm profits,” concludes Phoebe.