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Sheep special: Protecting lambs against coccidiosis

Coccidiosis is a serious disease which can result in significant economic losses so managing it is imperative to ensure healthy youngstock.

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Sheep special: Protecting lambs against coccidiosis #HandyHints

Mathew Colston, ruminant technical vet at Elanco, says: "Managing coccidiosis, and reducing the impact of coccidial infections, depends on allowing a low level of exposure, so youngstock can develop immunity, but preventing levels of infection which will cause decreased growth rates or clinical disease."

 

Treatment and prevention strategy

 

1. If there is no history on which to base a strategic treatment plan, all animals in the group should be treated following a positive diagnosis of pathogenic Eimeria species on routine dung samples, or immediately after clinical signs of coccidiosis are seen.

 

It is important to get a diagnosis of the species of Eimeria to check if it is a harmful species along with considering the individual farm history.

 

2. Timing of treatment should be based on the timing of suspected exposure and knowledge of previous outbreaks on the farm.


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3. Strategic treatment is often required, and is necessary to prevent losses associated with subclinical infections.

 

Ideally treatment should be given after infection but before the parasite starts damaging intestinal cells and causing clinical signs.

 

This helps to prevent the build-up of environmental contamination, reducing the risk of any animals in the group picking up a heavy infection and suffering from clinical disease.

 

4. Water troughs should be cleaned and emptied regularly to help prevent contamination with faeces, and bedding should be kept clean and dry.

 

Good ventilation will also help reduce infection pressure by reducing the build-up of warmth and moisture which favour oocyst survival.

5. Keep animals in similar age-groups. Older animals can act as a source of infective oocysts for younger animals.

 

6. Colostrum taken in shortly after birth allows calves and lambs to absorb whole antibodies, which gives them some protection in the first weeks of life.

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