Recent wet weather conditions could increase the risk of coccidiosis in lambs, making it essential to look out for signs of disease and respond promptly to help avoid production losses.

Phoebe McCarter, veterinary advisor for NADIS, explained that coccidiosis is spread entirely through environmental contamination, which is majorly affected by weather conditions.

“Lambs take in coccidiosiscausing eggs, called oocysts, orally. The oocysts hatch and multiply in the gut, damaging the lining, with millions then being shed out in faeces, further spreading the disease and continuing the cycle,” she says.

“Cold, wet and windy conditions can increase the stress associated with turnout, making lambs more vulnerable to developing disease. Muddy conditions also increase the risk of drinking water being contaminated with faeces, meaning lambs can take in more oocysts, speeding up the cycle and increasing the chance of infections.

“Lambs are at highest risk of clinical coccidiosis between four and eight weeks old, so wet weather taking hold at this time is a major concern.”

Phoebe explains that having a history of the disease on-farm, highstocking densities both indoorsand outdoors, and keeping lambs of varying ages grouped together can also increase risk.

“I’d recommend grouping animals closely by age, to reduce the risk of younger animals picking up an infection from older lambs that have already built immunity.”

She also advises keeping a close watch for symptoms, as spotting and treating coccidiosis early can minimise the build up of contamination in the environment.

“Look out for poor growth rates, loss of appetite, weight loss and even scour. If you’re concerned it’s important to speak to your vet and get a diagnosis, as the symptoms are similar to those caused by Nematodirus, which needs a different treatment approach,” she says.

“Once coccidiosis is confirmed, vets should also carry out a speciation test, to confirm if it’s one of the two pathogenic types that cause gut damage and disease.”

Phoebe explains that once diagnosed, prompt treatment is key to success. If there is one positive animal, the whole group needs to be treated to minimise the level of environmental contamination and prevent the whole group being reinfected.

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