Carol Sanders | UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences
PINE BLUFF, Ark. – Quite a few sheep and goat producers may have lambs and kids with dark scours which are unresponsive to standard antibiotic treatment or deworming, says Dr. David Fernandez, Cooperative Extension Program livestock specialist at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. The problem is most likely coccidiosis, he says.
Coccidiosis is a parasitic disease caused by 12 protozoan parasites of the genus Eimeria.
They are shed in feces, and infections are caused when young lambs or kids ingest fecal material, usually found on the udder or in their water or feed. It is not uncommon for adult sheep and goats to shed coccidia oocysts throughout their lives. Adults that have been gradually exposed to coccidia early in life develop immunity, often without showing signs of the disease, says Dr. Fernandez.
When young animals are suddenly exposed to large number of sporulated oocysts, they can become dangerously ill. The oocysts sporulate when weather conditions are warm and moist. “Warm, moist conditions began in Arkansas in mid-June which accounts for the outbreaks now,” says Dr. Fernandez.
Once youngsters are exposed, the disease develops in the next one or two weeks. The protozoa attack the lining of the small intestines, damaging cells that absorb nutrients and often causing blood from damaged capillaries to enter the digestive tract. The infection causes dark, tarry feces or bloody diarrhea. New oocysts are shed, and the infection can spread. Sick lambs and kids will become chronic poor-doers and should be culled, advises Dr. Fernandez.
The best medicine is prevention. Once you must treat your animals, the damage has been done. Keep waterers clean. Choose designs that will keep feces out of the feed and water. Keep lambing areas clean and dry. The hot summer sun will kill the oocysts. Use it to sterilize bedding areas or equipment that may have become contaminated earlier in the year.
A number of coccidiostats can be added to feed or water to reduce the potential for outbreaks, he says. Lasalocid (Bovatec®), monensin (Rumensin®) or decoquinate (Deccox®) are examples. They slow the rate at which coccidia are shed into the environment, so the likelihood of infection is reduced and immunity has a chance to develop.
Deccox® and Bovatec® are approved for use in sheep, and Deccox® and Rumensin® are approved for use in goats under specific conditions. Be sure to follow label restrictions carefully. Deccox® and Rumensen® should not be used in lactating sheep or goats. Rumensin® can be toxic to sheep if it is not properly mixed in the feed. All three, especially Rumensin®, are toxic to equines (horses, donkeys and mules). Be sure to keep equines out of medicated feed or water.
Once an animal shows signs of coccidiosis, treat it with Albon®, Sulmet® or DiMethox®. Mix in drinking water or give as a drench for individual animals. Corid® (amprolium) is another treatment alternative. It works by interfering with thiamin metabolism so animals treated with Corid® should also get an injection of thiamin.
None of these drugs are approved for use in sheep or goats so use them only under the advice of your veterinarian.
For more information, contact Dr. Fernandez at (870) 575-7214 or Fernandez@uapb.edu.
The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, gender, age, disability, marital or veteran status, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.