Coccidiosis: Are Your Calves Susceptible?

Posted: May 24, 2018 | Written By: Ron Meyer, Form-A-Feed Ration Analyst


Coccidiosis is a parasitic disease of cattle, sheep, goats, hogs and poultry. It is caused by microscopic protozoan organisms known as coccidia. They live in the cells lining the intestinal tract. Nearly all mature cattle are infected with coccidiosis, but they have developed a natural immunity to the disease and show no signs or symptoms. The disease is spread by the coccidia shedding eggs, or oocysts into the digestive tract which pass out into the manure of the infected animal. The oocysts are very hardy and will survive in the environment for long periods of time. If an uninfected animal ingests some of the contaminated manure it will become infected.

Young calves have no natural immunity to coccidiosis and are susceptible to the disease when they ingest contaminated manure. If the exposure is great enough, the calf will develop clinical signs of coccidiosis. Some of the clinical signs of coccidiosis are:

  • Diarrhea, which can be bloody at times
  • Loss of appetite
  • Slight fever
  • In extreme cases, death.

Many calves will not show clinical signs when infected, but will become unthrifty with slower weight gains. Even though death from coccidiosis is relatively rare, it can have an economic impact by reducing growth and weight gain in the infected animal.

Sanitation is key in preventing the spread of coccidiosis to young calves. Cows should calve in clean pens with fresh bedding. Calf hutches and pens should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between animals or groups of animals to reduce exposure to contaminated manure.

There are three medications that can be fed to cattle and calves to help prevent coccidiosis. They are Decoquinate (trade name Deccox®), Lasalocid (Bovatec®), and Monensin (Rumensin®). In addition, a fourth medication Amprolium (Corid®) and be used to treat cattle and calves that are showing clinical symptoms, as well as fed to prevent coccidiosis. Deccox is approved to be added to milk replacer to be fed to young calves to provide protection from coccidiosis before they are eating dry feed. These medications are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and may be fed according to their regulations.

All of Form-A-Feed’s new Prime Life milk replacers, balancers, and feeds contain a coccidiostat (Deccox or Bovatec) to help in the prevention of coccidiosis.  To learn more about the benefits of the Prime Life program, and for ways you can prevent coccidiosis in your calf barn, contact your Form-A-Feed representative!

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