Coccidia is a protozoal parasite living in the small and large intestine of ruminants and have the potential to cause disease under certain conditions. Coccidiosis (black scours) is the disease caused by coccidian infection.

Coccidiosis is most common in young animals, but can also occur in older animals during periods of stress.

Conditions under which coccidiosis is likely to occur

  • Young calves, lambs and kids.
  • Low body weights at weaning.
  • Warm, wet areas.
  • Animals confined to small areas, especially if stock density is high.
  • Feed or watering points contaminated with faeces.
  • Stressful conditions, such as weaning, cold weather or poor nutrition.

Identifying and diagnosing coccidiosis

Clinical signs that would lead a producer to suspect coccidiosis include the following:

  • Foul-smelling, profuse scouring with or without blood in the faeces.
  • Straining.
  • Pale gums and membranes around the eyes (anaemia).

Coccidiosis can be confused with gastrointestinal worm infection. If worms are suspected, but animals continue to scour after drenching, consult a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis of the problem.

Strategies to prevent coccidiosis

  • Reducing faecal contamination of the environment, especially when young animals are held in confined areas.
  • Minimising stress on young animals by using low stress handling techniques and ensuring nutrition is adequate.
  • In tropical and subtropical areas, producers that have experienced a coccidiosis problem in calves previously should consider feeding a ration or supplement containing a coccidiostat when weaners are held in damp yards or confined for more than a week.

More information

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