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Manage coccidiosis to reduce losses in newborn livestock

By Carol Sanders, UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences

(513 words) 

PINE BLUFF, Ark. – Costing the beef industry losses of $100 million annually, coccidiosis is an important cause of economic loss and death in young livestock, said David Fernandez, Cooperative Extension Program livestock specialist at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

And, he adds, it is the second most important internal parasite of sheep.

Coccidiosis is an internal parasite that lives in the feces of animals and can survive for a year if protected from the sun. With this year’s very wet spring and wet, muddy conditions producers need to be on the lookout for coccidiosis, he said.

Most livestock harbor coccidia but not in large enough numbers to cause disease. Coccidiosis is likely to become a problem when young animals are exposed to high levels of coccidia or older animals are severely stressed.

“When young animals lick one another, eat contaminated feed or drink contaminated water, the parasite makes a home for itself in the wall of the intestines where it multiplies,” Fernandez said. The animal can suffer loss of appetite, lethargy, rough hair coat, slow growth, failure to thrive and bloody diarrhea.

Infected animals often become life-long underperformers. One way to identify if an animal is infected by coccidian is with a standard fecal analysis.

Prevention is the best treatment for coccidiosis, he said. Good hygiene and sanitation are critical. Keep pens where animals give birth, waterers and stock tanks clean and free of manure. Provide feed and hay in bunks and racks that keep animals and manure out.

Avoid overcrowding animals, especially the very young or stressed animals, at weaning time. The immune systems of young and stressed animals are weaker than those of older animals and those that are not stressed, making them more susceptible to infection. Avoid mixing groups of young and older animals if possible.

Coccidiosis in cattle is typically prevented by adding a coccidiostat to the water. Unfortunately, none of the drugs available to treat for coccidiosis is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in lambs and kids. Off-label drug use is only permitted with the approval of a veterinarian with whom you have a valid client-veterinary relationship. Without it, you could be liable for any illness or deaths associated with the consumption of meat or milk products from your animals.

Drugs used to treat coccidiosis include amprolium (Corid®) and sulfadimethoxine (Albon® or Di-Methox®). Corid® has a unique method of action. It mimics thiamine, causing coccidian to starve to death. In sheep and goats, Corid® can cause a thiamine deficiency so a thiamine injection is usually recommended, too.

Coccidiostats must be started at least three weeks before calving, lambing or kidding begins to be effective. Bovatec®  (lasalocid) is FDA approved for confined sheep. Rumensin®  (monensin) is FDA approved for confined goats. Do not use in lactating goats. Monensin is toxic to horses and dogs. Do not allow them to eat goat feed containing monensin. Deccox® (decoquinate) is FDA approved for young nonlactating sheep and goats. Do not feed coccidiostats year round to avoid the development of resistance to the drug by the protozoa.

Product mentions do not imply endorsement. 

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Media Contact: Carol Sanders 
UA-Pine Bluff 
Cooperative Extension Program 
(870) 575-7238

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