Dr. Greg Hanzlicek – Coccidiosis

(Gregg) Hello, my name is Dr. Gregg Hanzlicek, a veterinarian in the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Lab within the College of Veterinarian Medicine. And I’m here at Beef Stocker Days at K-State to talk about coccidiosis, and if you’re not familiar with coccidiosis is, that’s a parasite, a protozo parasite that lives in the intestine of calves. It does have effects on not only on the health of the calves, but also on average daily gain, feed conversion and then coccidiosis is also an important immunosuppressent. So calves that have coccidiosis are at the higher risk of developing other diseases. We talk about how coccidia is spread, it’s a fecal, oral transmission, so a calf either has to ingest feces from a calf that is passing it in the manure or they have to ingest the ground that’s contaminated, feed or water. In my experience water contamination is one of the biggest spreads of this disease among calves. Some other important things to know about it is that it’s on every operation. Coccidia are on every operation and every calf is going to become infected with this intestinal parasite sooner or later in their life. The good thing is that once they go through the initial episode they’ll develop an immunity to it. So, if they’re exposed to it later on in life their immune system will keep it at a level that’s not detrimental. So, that’s very important to know. Other things to know about it is that we routinely… we very seldom ever see it in adult animals. And that’s because of that immunity. We rarely see it in cows, in cow/calf herds that have coccidiosis but we can find them. Because once an animal goes through the initial phases of it and their immune system kicks in, a certain percentage of them will be carriers. That’s why we can find it on every place, at all times, and if we sample enough animals with a herd we’ll find it within the animals. What it does, is once it’s ingested, it reproduces in the wall of the intestine in the calf. And then once it gets to another stage, all these coccidia break out of the wall into the inside of the large intestine and it’s passed in the feces. When they break out of that wall, they cause tremendous damage. And a lot of times one of the classical signs we will see in calves with coccidia is blood in the manure. And that’s because there’s bleeding in the large intestine when these coccidia organisms break out. What that has to do with average daily gain and feed efficiency is that now we have an injured small intestine. So, the nutrients that the calf’s eating is passing through instead of being absorbed into the blood stream to nourish the calf. That large intestine that’s damaged is not absorbing those nutrients. So, those nutrients are just passing out into the feces. It’s always good for producers if you think that you have coccidiosis, if it’s calves, multiple calves in a pen with diarrhea, some of them are off feed, might have a little bit of a long hair coat, just aren’t doing well, that’s one idea that maybe you do have coccidiosis. But the way to diagnosis is to just take a glove, grab some feces out of the pen, take ’em to your veterinarian and they have a simple, quick test called a fecal flotation where they can determine whether there is coccidiosis in the manure. If there is, then the best thing to do is just mass treat the entire group. And there are some really good products on the market that you can just put into the feed. They’re very palatable and it will get those calves over the coccidiosis. There’s some tremendously good preventative products on the market. Ask your veterinarian what they are. But I strongly recommend that especially for stockers that they feed these products at all times with these calves, so they are keeping the amount of coccidia in the intestine to a low enough dose that it’s not going to hurt those calves.

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