What is Cryptosporidiosis?
Cryptosporidiosis or ‘Crypto’ is a disease that affects many of our cattle farms. Cryptosporidia are protozoal parasites, so a little bit like coccidiosis or in humans amoebic dysentery (infection of the gut). However, Crypto is not specific to calves and can affect other mammals and humans too (more specifically Cryptosporidium parvum).
The protozoa multiply massively within diseased animals, but also in ‘normal’ animals, resulting in the shedding of huge numbers of parasites into the environment. Generally speaking Crypto cannot be eradicated and our focus is on reducing the challenge and also improving immunity.
These protozoa love warm wet conditions, so we can see Crypto issues all year round. But when we get periods or systems that have damp areas around troughs or in bedding, that’s when we see Crypto flourish and cause much loss.
Where and when is it normally seen?
Crypto is typically seen in calves between one and three weeks of age and is pretty indistinguishable from rotavirus. It is less of a killer than rotavirus, but when combined, the challenge to the calf is often overwhelming and deaths will occur.
Most of the loss however, is in calves scouring (typically yellow watery scour) and failing to thrive. These animals will need much more attention, medicines, electrolytes, feed, bedding and often fail to hit target growth rates. The combination of these factors is a huge loss to some of our farms in productivity and costs.
What can we do about it?
As mentioned before, it generally cannot be eradicated and thrives in our UK climate, so our focus should be on control. We have seen tremendous success on farms that have fully utilised our scour sample testing and vet advice to identify a Crypto problem and alter their systems accordingly. Given that pedigree Holstein heifer calves sell at auction in dispersal sales for £400 – £500, the benefit from having a proper calf consultancy visit from the practice can be huge.
There are a few steps to look at as a foundation:
- Preparing the cow well for calving, including her environment.
- Colostrum management is critical to get the calf protected.
- Removing the calf from the cow environment promptly also reduces the risk of the calf being challenged.
- Keeping calves in ones or twos for 10 days in clean dry pens helps before, if necessary, moving on to groups of no more than 10 calves.
If you think you may have a Crypto problem, it may be worth carrying out some scour sampling due to the disease being very indistinguishable. This sampling can help us advise on a prevention or treatment protocol for you that will be most effective.
Luckily we have a range of tools available to try and tackle Crypto, from approved disinfectants like Kilco Cyclex, to a new oral treatment that is specifically licensed to treat Crypto in calves.
Please give your vet a ring if you would like some more information, or if you’re interested in a calf consultation before the wet Autumn and Winter period.
Mixed viral and cryptosporidiosis infections are common.