For cattle producers looking to maximize efficiency and profits, understanding hidden hindrances is essential. Joe Dedrickson, a technical services veterinarian at Huvepharma, INC, gave producers an overview of coccidiosis at the Kansas State University Beef Stocker Field Day in Manhattan, Kansas.

“All cattle are exposed. All breeds, all geographies and all types of operations,” Dedrickson said. “If you have cattle, you have coccidiosis.”

This intestinal disease is caused by a single cell parasite, and costs beef and dairy producers more than $400 million annually, Dedrickson said. More than 95% of infections are subclinical.

“In other words, I’m pretty confident I could walk onto any operation out here and tell you those cattle have coccidia,” Dedrickson said. “Do I see something that tells me that? No. We know that because 100% of all cattle have some level of exposure.”

Despite the lack of symptoms in mild cases, coccidiosis can still have an impact on cattle herds.

“We all think of coccidiosis as the classic little Holstein calf with bloody diarrhea,” Dedrickson said. “When we talk about that 95%, we do see immunosuppression and lost performance. But to see that, I have to be in a well-controlled study. It’s not something you’re going to visually see in your animals.”

A single cell of coccidia can reproduce rapidly if not properly managed.

“Each one of those eggs will have about eight of those larvae, and they will develop asexually about 100,000 times,” Dedrickson said. “The second generation will do another 15 to 20 times. So that single egg, or ovacysts, will produce 15 million larvae in the first 15 days, all in the small intestine. Those animals will look normal to you.”

Dedrickson said an average feedlot steer picks up an estimated 25,000 coccidia eggs a day.

“A lot of us don’t give enough importance to subclinical infections,” Dedrickson said. “If we understand those numbers, maybe it does make sense that it could be causing you problems.”

Coccidia is an opportunistic parasite, making animals more prone to coccidiosis when in high-stress situations. Weaning, processing and shipping periods are all a concern.

“That’s when you’re going to manage for it most,” Dedrickson said. “They’re all normal, good management that is going to give you the chance to raise those animals more efficiently. You’re going to wean them, you’re going to process them and you’re going to ship them. So you want to focus on those things that deal with stress.”

Even subclinical infections can cause immunosuppression, causing cattle to be more prone to secondary diseases.

“In all of our studies, when we did a good job managing coccidia, we saw less respiratory disease,” Dedrickson said.

For producers looking to manage coccidiosis, there are three different definitions of drug listed by the FDA - control, prevention and treatment.

“Control means it increases the performance in the face of coccidia, but it won't stop you from having a clinical outbreak,” Dedrickson said.

Producers looking to limit clinical outbreaks in their herd are better off opting for drugs labeled as preventative.

“If you don't want to see any blood or diarrhea, you want to have a drug that is high enough to have a preventative effect,” Dedrickson said.

Several companies have come out with their form of coccidiosis management. Instead of focusing on branding, Dedrickson said producers should take the time to understand how to use the products.

“Learn what the dosage is and how to use them correctly, rather than get lost in who’s better or who’s the best,” Dedrickson said.

Trending Video

Recommended for you