Coccidiosis in a Goat Herd

Coccidiosis of goats is caused by various Eimeria species of protozoan parasites. Transmission of coccidiosis to kids occurs when infected animals shed the organisms in feces, resulting in contaminated feed or water. Contaminated bedding can be a significant source of infection in a herd. All mature goats are infected with small numbers of coccidia but show no clinical signs of disease because of acquired immunity. Disease occurs when kids, not immune to coccidia, ingest large numbers of coccidia from the contaminated environment. The coccidia infection is usually located in the middle and lower portions of the small intestine and sometimes in the upper portion of the large intestine. The small intestine is the major site of nutrient absorption in goat kids.

Kids with coccidiosis show a reduction in feed intake and may have diarrhea. Kids with coccidiosis are also weak and depressed and it is obvious something is wrong with them. Kids can sometimes die from coccidiosis. The damage to the kids intestinal mucosa (gut) can be permanent and once recovered the kid can be a chronic poor doer. These kids can have a birthday before they get to market weight, and they are not profitable.

Kids with coccidiosis need to be diagnosed based on clinical history, post mortem lesions and laboratory findings. A veterinary lab is needed to confirm diagnosis.

There are treatments for the disease and there are preventative measures a producer can take. To treat the disease after diagnosis, talk to your vet. Sulfamethazine treatment in water works well. Prevention is possible with coccidiostats, a drug that interferes with the lifecycle of coccidia. Coccidiostats stop the build up of coccidia in the intestine of kids, which stops the disease. There are three coccidiostat products available for goat producers. The three products are Rumensin, Bovatec and Decoxx. It is important to emphasize that none of these products are approved for goats and all three require a veterinary prescription for use in a goat herd. It is also important to point out that Rumensin is very toxic if mixed improperly. Rumensin is also very toxic to dogs and horses. This could be important to goat producers with guard dogs, which may come in contact with feed containing Rumensin. Always use a feedmill to mix any feed containing Rumensin. Bovatec and Decoxx have a much greater margin for mixing error. Remember to consult with your veterinarian about withdrawal times for each product.

I have personal experience with using a coccidiostat. Until I contacted my vet and had Decoxx added to my lamb supplement, I was always treating my lambs with sulfamethazine every spring. The Decoxx stopped the sulfamethazine treatments and my Jan/Feb born lambs were all gone to market by mid July. I hope by reading this article you can benefit by what I learned the hard way.

Prepared by: Rob Berry - Dairy Specialist, Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development