26 March 1999

Cold and wet pose high risk of lamb coccidiosis

COCCIDIOSIS remains a threat to lambs, with forecast cold, wet weather increasing risks.

Sheep consultant Lesley Stubbings says coccidiosis is proving a big concern this year, with numerous cases already reported in January and February born lambs.

"A move by lowland producers to earlier lambing and creep feeding will put even more lambs at risk throughout March and April. The cost of an outbreak can be high; 3-10% of lambs will die, and many others will suffer gut damage from which they will never recover."

According to Ms Stubbings, lambs are most at risk when four to six weeks old. Affected lambs become dull, stop thriving and are often hunched with stomach pain. This is often accompanied by scouring, often containing blood, but sometimes grey in colour.

Risk factors include:

lHigh stocking rates at grass with wet, muddy areas round troughs. lMultiples, particularly triplets, as lambs with low intakes of colostrum have lower resistance to coccidial infection.

lPaddocks which have been used many times over lambing for mothering up will have high levels of infection because lots of coccidia oocysts will have been deposited.

"Management is always the first line of defence. Ensure lambs have enough colostrum to start with, then avoid high levels of challenge within the following four weeks when they are vulnerable. Turn lambs out in tight age groups, do not mix older lambs with younger ones in the same field. Also, avoid using paddocks repeatedly for lambs more than two weeks old."

When creep feeding, consider using a coccidiostat, she says. "This is available on prescription from your vet, who can also discuss what to do should an outbreak occur. Dont wait until you have a problem with coccidiosis – it strikes quickly, and a 24 hour delay can make the difference between minimal damage and serious losses." &#42

COCCIDIOSIS ALERT

&#8226 Major concern this season.

&#8226 3-10% of lambs will die.

&#8226 Good management vital.