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Advice on Coccidiosis

Advice on coccidiosis in lambs

Advice on Coccidiosis in Lambs - The Big Balancing Act

With lambing well underway or already completed for most of you, now is the time to consider factors that can affect lamb growth rates.  One such factor is coccidiosis, especially prevalent on farms running an intensive system.


Coccidiosis is caused by a protozoal parasitic organism.  Protozoa can be loosely defined as single celled organisms that are often motile, ie can often move under their own steam.   Lambs become infected by ingesting coccidial egg contaminated faeces, either directly from the ewes or by nosing around amongst faeces contaminated pasture or bedding.  Once the eggs have been ingested they hatch and the next stage migrates to the intestinal cell walls. Here they replicate and cause cell damage.  This cell damage leads to decreased uptake of nutrients and scarring of the intestine and therefore a reduction in feed conversion.


 The clinical signs associated with coccidios are:


Poor doers with tucked up open fleece appearance


Sudden onset scour (diarrhoea, often blood stained)


Dehydration (lambs noticeably spending more time around the drinking troughs)


Often some deaths



The thing to bear in mind with coccidiosis is the damage will have largely been caused prior to the onset of clinical signs.  Also, once the clinical signs have occurred it can take weeks for the intestines to repair and be back to their normal efficiency in terms of food digestion and absorption.



Coccidiosis is one big balancing act. The peak risk is around 4-6 weeks of age. However, treat too soon and lambs may not have had sufficient exposure to develop their own immunity.  Treat too late and the damage will already have occurred with the majority of lambs having their growth affected.  A pragmatic approach is to get a diagnosis as soon as possible, whenever any lambs start to scour or especially if any die.  If its likely to be coccidiosis, ie there are high numbers of eggs (10,000 opg) in the faeces or there are signs of intestinal damage on post mortem, treat all lambs in the group at this stage.



There are two licensed options for preventative oral treatment of lambs and for the best effect, either treatment must be given as early as possible once disease is suspected.


Baycox 50mg/ml - (Toltrazuril – Bayer) is a POM-V product only available under veterinary prescription. The product does provide some residual activity and a single treatment may therefore provide better protection for mixed ages of lambs or when the onset of clinical signs is variable. Meat Withdrawal is 42 days.


Vecoxan (Diclazuril – Elanco) is a POM-VPS product and can therefore be purchased through your SQP in store. It is effective against all stages of the life cycle but has no residual activity. In cases of severe challenge re-treatment may therefore be required in 17-21 days. Meat withdrawal is 0 days.


 *Mark Riggs, Head vet until December 2014

Source Details

Mark Riggs,  Head Vet BVetMed MRCVS

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