Prevent coccidiosis in sheep and goats under warm and humid conditions

Dr. David Fernandez, an extension livestock expert and interim dean of the Graduate School at the University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff, said that when the weather is warm and humid, young animals are at risk for the parasitic disease, coccidiosis. If sheep and goat producers notice that their lambs and children have black spot disease that does not respond to antibiotic treatment or deworming, then these animals are likely to have the disease.
"Prevention is the best medicine for coccidiosis," he said. "Once you have to treat your young animals for disease, the damage has already been done."
Coccidiosis is caused by 12 protozoan parasites belonging to the genus Eimeria. They are excreted in the feces and can cause infection when a lamb or child ingests the feces normally found on the udder, water or feed.
"It is not uncommon for adult sheep and goats to shed coccidial oocysts during their lifetime," said Dr. Fernandez. "Adults who are gradually exposed to coccidia in the early stages of life develop immunity and usually do not show signs of this disease. However, when suddenly exposed to a large number of sporulated oocysts, young animals can develop dangerous diseases. "
When coccidiosis oocysts form spores in warm and humid weather, young animals will be infected with the disease, which can develop within a week or two. Protozoa attack the inner wall of the animal's small intestine, destroy the cells that absorb nutrients, and often cause blood in the damaged capillaries to enter the digestive tract.
"Infection causes black, tarry stools or bloody diarrhea in animals," said Dr. Fernandez. "Then the new oocysts fall off and the infection will spread. Sick lambs and children will become long-term poor and should be eliminated."
He said that in order to prevent this disease, producers should ensure that feeders and drinking fountains are kept clean. It is best to install a feeder design to keep manure away from feed and water.
"Make sure your lambing and play area is clean and dry," he said. "Bedding areas or equipment that may have been contaminated earlier this year should be exposed to full sunlight in the hot summer. This will kill the oocysts."
Dr. Fernandez said that anticoccidial drugs-veterinary drugs used to treat coccidiosis-can be added to animal feed or water to reduce the possibility of outbreaks. These substances slow down the speed of coccidia entering the environment, reduce the possibility of infection, and give animals an opportunity to develop immunity to diseases.
He said that when using anticoccidial drugs to treat animals, producers should always read product instructions and label restrictions very carefully. Deccox and Bovatec are products approved for use in sheep, while Deccox and Rumensin are approved for use in goats under certain conditions. Deccox and Rumensin cannot be used in lactating sheep or goats. If improperly mixed in the feed, rumen may be toxic to sheep.
"All three anticoccidial drugs, especially rumenins, are toxic to horses-horses, donkeys and mules," said Dr. Fernandez. "Be sure to keep the horse away from medicated feed or water."
He said that in the past, once an animal showed signs of coccidiosis, producers could treat it with Albon, Sulmet, Di-Methox or Corid (amprolin). However, at present, none of these drugs are approved for use in sheep or goats, and veterinarians can no longer prescribe off-label prescriptions. The use of these drugs on food animals is against federal law.
For more information on this and other livestock topics, please contact Dr. Fernandez at (870) 575-8316 or
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Post time: Sep-09-2021