Coccidiosis in calves–treatment and prevention
March 30, 2017
What a week. The grass is starting to show a little green. If we could get a good rain, I am sure it would be time to mow the lawn. Almost everyone is calving now, but some producers are done. Usually the first two weeks of April are the busiest for us with obstetric calls. So far, the weather has been good and no one has had any major herd problems.
Some of our older calves are experiencing infections of coccidiosis. This single celled parasite makes its home in the rectum and terminal areas of the intestine. As the lifecycle of the organism nears conclusion, the calf begins to show blood in its stool. It is believed that the amount of hemorrhage is directly proportional to the amount of the organism injested by the calf.
The lifecycle of coccidia is about 28 days. Therefore, if the calf is not about a month old, its probably not coccidia. The calf consumes the bug from contaminated water or manure and dirt on the cow's udder. The organism travels to the lower portion of the intestine and enter through the mucosa or lining of the gut. Nutrition is gained from the host calf and the coccidia replicates. At the end of the lifecyle the organisms break through the mucosa and are shed in the calf's manure. This is when the calf sheds blood in its feces.
Resistant to coccidia increases with the age of the animal. That means the young calf is most susceptible. Older animals and cows a inapparent carriers which constantly shed the organism in the calving pasture. These older animals may show bloody dysentery if they are stressed by calving, weather or illness.
Rumensin has proved to be very beneficial in minimizing coccidiosis. It makes good sense to include it is your beef cow ration because it decreases your feed costs by decreasing consumption while minimizing the shed of coccidia. If you are having problems in a calving pasture, you can add Corid to the water of both the cows and calves. Many producers utilizing calf creep areas and provide water with Corid in the enclosure.
In eastern South Dakota, many producers provide creep feed with coccidiostats shortly after birth for the young calves. Hopefully the water treatment or the feed treatment coupled with cleanliness and minimal shedding will greatly decrease problems. As the calves mature the infections are usually less severe. Therefore, the older your calves, the less probable death will result from infection. Many times the young calves become anemic and die of pneumonia.
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If you have a young calf with coccidiosis, they may exhibit shock. Intravenous fluids and steroids help with shock. Antibiotics are used to prevent secondary infections. We usually add B vitamins to help promote red blood cell formation. When the calf is extremely anemic, we may utilize a blood transfusion. Oral electrolytes are helpful and may be administered to the calf in combination with coccidiostats.
Coccidiosis is a common disease in the calving pasture. Without treatment and care, the disease can be devastating. Consult with your extension beef specialist, veterinarian, or nutritionalist to formulate a program for your herd. The important points are minimizing shedding, interrupt the life cycle and begin proper treatment in a timely manner. The better a calf's start, the more pounds it will gain and the more profitable your operation will become.