Preventing Coccidiosis & Other Ailments In Cattle

Keeping cattle is a rewarding farming endeavor, but it's important to guard against ailments such as coccidiosis—and know what to do if illness does arise.

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by Ashleigh KrispenseAugust 1, 2022
PHOTO: Laurence/AdobeStock

The longer you keep a herd of cattle around your homestead, the greater the chance that you will eventually run into a health problem among the herd. In general, the best recommendation to any animal owner is to have a trustworthy veterinarian on speed dial. It’s also a good idea to find a local rancher or two to visit with and be able to ask questions or advice from in case a situation arises.

Between these two resources (and a few reliable books/veterinary manuals) you should remain well-prepared in case of a health emergency.

By implementing just a few common habits, you can eliminate a variety of problems for your herd. A few simple things can keep your cattle healthier and your vet bills lower!

But problems can always arise. So check out this brief overview of a couple different issue that can commonly plague cattle owners: 

Bloat

Bloat can present dangerous problems for cattle. If you notice it in one of your animals, treat as soon as possible.

As cattle eat and digest food, gases build up in their stomach and need release. But sometimes something will obstruct the esophagus. This can lead to an inability to burp and release these gases. As gas continues to build up inside, it can cause part of the stomach to distend and protrude oddly towards the upper left side of the animal (when looking at them from behind).

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Some people will try to remedy bloat themselves. But it’s oftentimes best (and safest) to call your vet. Bloated cattle can eventually die if left for too long without proper treatment. 

Keep a few rules in place to avoid bloat in the future:

  • Stick to a regular feeding schedule. Avoid irregular or long gaps of time between each feeding. This can cause cattle to grow famished and gorge themselves at the next available opportunity. 
  • Avoid overfeeding grain. 
  • Supply plenty of roughage in the feed rations: chopped hay, green grass that they can graze on their own, straw, various plant stalks, etc. 

Read more: Plan & prepare for the arrival of your beef cattle.


Coccidiosis 

Coccidiosis is an intestinal infection caused by parasites and can be very contagious to the other cattle in the herd. If caught early on, it is very treatable. If cattle live in a dirty, muddy environment, coccidiosis is more likely to show up.

Even if the rest of the pen is dry, if stagnant water holes are nearby, cattle will oftentimes choose to drink from the contaminated water even if fresh, clean water is available to them. 

Coccidiosis can cause a variety of ailments. From bloody, sour smelling stools to loss of limb control and brain seizures, it can have a very bad effect if not treated in time.

Drain for Dry

The best way to deal with coccidiosis? Lean heavily on the side of prevention by draining water holes and keeping the cattle in a nice, well-draining pen. If it does flare up in your herd, you can treat using a coccidiostat and sulfa pills (and, of course, contact your vet). 


Read more: Guard your sheep against coccidiosis infection.


Supplemental Treatments

Local rancher Todd Krispense (also my father-in-law) shared with me that in extreme cases of coccidiosis they have found the cattle to be depleted in potassium. If cattle have reached the stage of brain seizures, treating them with potassium is the only thing they’ve found to be effective in getting them over the seizures. 

As another means of prevention, Todd also shared with me that they feed a lasalocid (an antibiotic and coccidiostat). This stimulates growth in the cattle. When it comes to little calves, you can also feed a supplement very effective in preventing coccidiosis. 

Todd also stresses the importance of knowing the source of everything:

  • Where your cattle themselves came from (look at the original herd they’re coming from, the environment they were in, etc.)
  • The feed you offer them and its contents
  • The source of water (natural spring, pond, river, stock tank, etc.). Watch for any signs of contamination. 

Maybe you’ve already got a herd in the back pasture. Or perhaps you’re simply toying with the idea of a few calves. Don’t let these ailments or any others talk you out of getting some cattle on your property. They can be a wonderful investment.

With a little forethought and careful planning for an emergency, you’ll be well on your way to a successful cattle-owning experience! 

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