With the 2019 lambing season well underway for many, taking a proactive approach to coccidiosis control will help give lambs the best possible start in life.
According to Dr Jenny Hull, veterinary surgeon at Black Sheep Farm Health, coccidiosis remains a major issue in the sheep industry which is not going away.
She says: “Lambs are most at risk between six and eight weeks old. If your lambs appear to be stunted or not growing at the same rate as the rest of the flock, there is a chance they could be infected with coccidiosis.”
Average growth rates for lambs should be more than 250g/day of daily liveweight gain, so use this as a benchmark to offer a guide as to whether sheep are performing as expected.
“It is recommended to ask your vet to conduct a faecal oocyst count, taking samples from lambs in all grazing areas, to confirm the presence of coccidiosis and gain a full understanding of the issue across the whole farm,” says Dr Hull.
Once the disease is identified, it is most effective to take a ‘metaphylactic’ approach to treatment.
Using a toltrazuril-based product, after exposure to the disease but before clinical signs develop, will kill the coccidia, before they can multiply rapidly.
Dr Hull says the clinical signs (see table), including souring and fever can drastically impact lamb growth rates, so being vigilant for small changes in lamb performance is essential to catch the disease in the sub-clinical stage.
She says: “Should an outbreak occur, I would suggest taking note of the fields which have held infected stock, so that next lambing season you can plan ahead and manage any high-risk areas.
“Coccidiosis can eat into farm profits, so if you are in any doubt, speak to your vet about testing and treatment protocols.
“The disease can seriously effect flock productivity, but with proactive metaphylactic treatment, lambs should thrive and losses should be mitigated.”