Coccidiosis

By Laci Jones

Coccidiosis is a common disease in young cattle that can cause economic loss for the producer. The disease can reduce herd performance and can even cause death. Calves typically contract the disease during the rainy months.

Unlike many diseases, coccidiosis is not caused by bacteria. Instead, coccidia is a protozoan parasite that is host specific. Producers should be concerned about three species of coccidia—Eimeria bovis, E.zuernii, and E. auburnensis.

The oocyst, the parasite eggs, mature in warm, moist environments like old manure. The oocyst can survive several years in moist, dark areas. The oocysts are shed in the feces. They are ingested by consumption of feed, water, pastures or grooming. Calves may become also infected by nursing contaminated udders.

The disease is common in areas of unsanitary conditions with large numbers of animals. However, the disease has been found in areas where the animals congregate including feeding and watering areas. The disease is also commonly found in confined areas like feedlots and often occur within the first month of being confined in a group.

The more oocysts that are ingested, the more severe the disease. Coccidiosis occurs when large numbers of the oocysts are ingested, the animals are stressed or decreased immune response, according to the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service Fact Sheet titled “Coccidiosis Treatment and Prevention in Cattle.” Stress and hindered immune response can be caused by shipping or weaning.

“If ingested, the parasite can develop inside the host animal, causing damage to intestinal cells and potentially resulting in the host animal having diarrhea and blood in the feces,” according to the OCES.

To learn more about coccidiosis, pick up the March issue of OKFR.