Beef cattle on grass© Tim Scrivener

Some areas of the UK should be alerted to a heightened autumn coccidiosis threat to calves, say animal health experts.

Veterinary surgeon Leanne Forde of Bishopton Vets, North Yorkshire, said that, while coccidiosis is mainly viewed as a spring problem, some practices are warning of an “above average” autumn threat.

“Warm, wet weather provides ideal conditions for Eimeria zuernii, Eimeria bovis and Eimeria alabamensis, the oocysts responsible for coccidiosis outbreaks in the UK, and wet areas around feed or water troughs are where contamination can build up,” explained Mrs Forde.

How to control coccidiosis

  • Pasture rotation
  • Good hygiene
  • Minimising stresses
  • Diligent stock checking
  • Look for dehydration and diarrhoea in calves up to six months old
  • Weight loss, anorexia and animal showing a “hunched shape” when standing.

See also: How to prevent and treat lamb coccidiosis

The announcement follows an unsettled summer of warm and wet weather, including the sixth wettest July since 1910.

Nadis (The National Animal Disease Information Service) reported over twice the normal amount of July rainfall for many parts of southern England.

The Nadis September forecast linked wet and unsettled weather with increasing risk of parasitic issues at pasture.

Breaking the cycle

Veterinary advice can often focus on breaking the cycle of infection with strategic use of toltrazuril.

This reduces oocyst shedding and prevents clinical signs of coccidiosis, explained Mrs Forde.

“It also reduces oocyst shedding, so has an impact on pasture infestation and, therefore, threat levels,” she added. “It is better to treat coccidiosis before the calves start to show signs.”

Nadis coccidiosis advice

  • Coccidiosis is often seen three to four weeks after weaning calves into mixed groups
  • Disease can be a sign of overstocking and contamination in young calves
  • Toltrazuril and diclazuril are the drugs available for control
  • Morbidity is high, mortality is low
  • Losses are mainly felt in loss of performance and poor weight gains.