Coccidiosis May Be the Culprit in Starting Cattle Health Issues

By: Blaine Corners, PhD, senior beef cattle nutritionist with Zoetis

 You put a lot of resources into developing sound nutrition, vaccine and antibiotic treatment programs, so it’s frustrating when cattle don’t respond. But rather than blaming your products and programs, consider that something else might be the cause — coccidiosis.

A Cascading Effect

When it comes to coccidia infecting cattle, the biggest impact comes from what else this parasite can do to your lightweight calves, not coccidiosis itself. You can read more about how to manage coccidiosis in this article, but, in short, coccidiosis:

  • Impacts the use of nutrients in feed, in addition to reducing feed consumption and efficiency
  • Influences a calf’s ability to respond to vaccinations and antibiotics

Coccidiosis affects cattle that often have compromised immune systems to begin with. Coccidia destroy intestinal cells, which impacts the use of nutrients, which are essential for proper development of immunity. And when the immune system is further compromised, the door is opened for more harmful pathogens, such as those associated with bovine respiratory disease (BRD). The compromised immune system makes it nearly impossible for the calf to respond to vaccinations or antibiotic treatment. Many times, we call it a treatment failure, but it’s really an immune system failure.

Could It Be Coccidiosis?

If you’re noticing lost performance or slower response rates, you can work with your veterinarian to diagnose if coccidiosis is the cause. Your veterinarian will work with you to:

  • Submit fecal samples to a qualified laboratory for oocyst (immature coccidia) count and speciation.
  • Ensure a good sample. You’ll need to take more than one sample of feces from affected calves.

Other possible causes to explore could be bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV) or Salmonella. I encourage producers to work with their nutritionist to check feed intakes, feed delivery system, milling procedures and ration formulations. Also, visit with your veterinarian to set realistic goals and expectations for animal health product success on your operation that fits the cattle you are working with.

Learn about an approach to manage coccidiosis early in the first part of this two-part article series, Nutritionist Quick Tip: Taking on the Challenges of Coccidiosis. For more information about feed additive solutions to help prevent coccidiosis, visit

About Zoetis

Zoetis is the leading animal health company, dedicated to supporting its customers and their businesses. Building on more than 65 years of experience in animal health, Zoetis discovers, develops, manufactures and commercializes medicines, vaccines and diagnostic products, which are complemented by biodevices, genetic tests and a range of services. Zoetis serves veterinarians, livestock producers and people who raise and care for farm and companion animals with sales of its products in more than 100 countries. In 2018, the company generated annual revenue of $5.8 billion with approximately 10,000 employees. For more information, visit

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