Coccidiosis prevention and treatment in lambs

What is coccidiosis?

Coccidiosis is a parasitic invasion of the intestine. Coccidiosis has a life cycle of 21 days that starts when a lamb ingests an oocyst. These are eggs containing coccidian parasites. These will hatch by day 14, and start feeding on the gut walls of the host animal. The parasites become sexual and will produce more oocysts, which are then excreted by the host. This is the end of one life cycle, and the start of the next.

What does coccidiosis do to the lamb?

Coccidiosis will cause damage to the intestines of a lamb. This damage will increase the speed of nutritional flow through the intestine. Feed conversion efficiency will be reduced, and vital trace elements and electrolytes will be lost from the host animal. Growth rates will be reduced. If left untreated, the parasite will cause the gut wall to bleed and shepherds will be able to observe blood in the scours. If lambs reach this stage, death is a high probability.

Where can lambs pick up coccidiosis?

Other species, such as pheasants, pigeons or cattle can be carriers of coccidiosis. Ewes can also be carriers of coccidiosis, although in most cases their intestines are strong enough to be able to resist damage. These ewes can be considered as coccidiosis ‘factories’, expelling millions of oocysts onto the pasture each day. Their lambs can then graze these in.

What can be done to protect lambs from coccidiosis?

It is possible to feed a Coccidiostat to the ewes prior to lambing. This will ‘clean out’ the ewes, reducing the infestation in the environment. This gives newborn lambs a window of protection when they are most vulnerable. It is also important to make the Coccidiostat available to the lambs directly. Some oocysts will still be present in the environment, which will multiply through their 21-day life cycle in the lambs.

What is the product?

We manufacture a product called Tub DX, which is a medicated Tubby lick. It is formulated to deliver, (at average intakes) 0.5mg of Decoquinate per kilo of animal live weight per day. It also supplies essential minerals, vitamins and electrolytes to help those lost when coccidiosis is present. It will cost in the region of 40-50 pence per lamb per month.