Friday, June 8, 2012

Single-Celled Monsters!!

I have a problem with coccidiosis on my property. For some reason those little single-celled parasites have a party in my soil and love to infect my animals. I am not sure why I am so lucky to receive such an honor of infected land but I wish I could give that honor back.

The problem with coccidiosis is that it kills goat kids quickly and sometimes before you see definite symptoms. It compounds any problems kids commonly have, including malnutrition, dehydration, and worms. Kids between 3 weeks and 6 months old are the most susceptible to massive infection. The main symptom that they are infested with the parasite is loose stool. Once they have that, their intestines have been compromised and you are fighting an up hill battle to keep them alive. Three weeks old is the golden age for coccidiosis symptoms because the parasite has a three week life-cycle. They infect the kids at birth but then it takes 3 weeks for the parasites to mature and cause damage in the intestines. Any kids that hit three weeks old and have smelly, brown diarrhea are infested with coccidia and need to be treated immediately.

This year has been a particularly bad year for coccidiosis on my farm. The warm, wet winter did not kill the endemic soil populations. There weren't any good stretches of weeks of -20F that normally help to kill all the soil parasites. Couple that with my kid ages being spread out over a month and a half. I have older kids and younger kids together. This causes problems because the older kids need more milk and the younger kids need less milk. I have been feeding them all on a lambar bucket feeder. In order to give enough milk to all of them, I wound up over-feeding some and under-feeding others. Also add to these problems the fact that I am very busy and stressed out this year, which leaves me not always thinking straight when it comes to kid care. I let a few things slip through the cracks that I should have known better. As a result, one kid died, another is still on the verge of death, and another has loose stools that won't go away.

The kid that died had started not to suck on the bucket at feeding time as much as the other kids. I didn't think very much of it for a few days. Then one evening he was lethargic, stumbling, and cold. I quickly gave him a little electrolytes to help rehydrate him. He was very thin and very dehydrated. He perked up for a little while and I continued to give him more electrolytes. The next morning he was dead. I think he died as a result of a combination of coccidiosis and dehydration. The kid that is on the verge of death has had very watery scours for days. I gave him electrolytes and coccidiosis treatment. He had good energy but continued to have bad diarrhea. I finally gave him to my neighbor to take care of because she can keep him in her house and spend more time on trying to rehab him. So far he is still alive. The kid with loose stool is doing fine. I am going to leave her alone for a few days and see how she reacts. She's been drinking her milk fine and eating hay.

To treat for coccidiosis you must you a sulfa-based antibiotic. I normally use Sulmet 12.5% drinking water solution. This is easy to find at any farm store and it is convenient to use. The dosage is 1cc orally, undiluted per 5 lbs of body weight for two days and then 1cc per 10 lbs of weight for 5 days. Treatment must be given for at least 7 days in order to kill all the parasites in their different life cycles. Sulmet tastes terrible and is best when mixed with something that tastes good, like milk or molasses. I taste-tested some Sulmet the other day because I was wondering why the goats always gag when I give it to them. I don't wonder about the gagging anymore! It is awful stuff! I will always mix it with something to make it taste better from now on.

I am planning on switching to using Corid powder to try to mix up the antibiotics I use. The Sulmet doesn't seem as effective as it used to be for me. Corid has a slightly different mode of action for killing coccidia so it might help knock the populations back for me. I am also using a medicated goat feed this year for the kids. This will help to keep populations of the parasite in check as the kids grow. It will not treat an infestation of coccidia but it will help to slow the infection. Once the kids get past 6 months old, they are usually immune to the parasite. Coccidia will always be present in an adult goat but it usually does not cause any problems unless the adult is compromised by another issue. Hopefully I can get my remaining kids to the 6 month mark and I won't have to worry about this again.


Missy said...

Sorry you are going through this Rose:( Good luck! Let me know if I can help!

Stevie Taylor said...

We leave our kids on the dam so we only have to milk once a day and we still get cocci around 3 weeks. I've always figured it was because we have so many free range hens running around. We use the Corrid powder and they get a 5ml syringe full once or twice a day until it goes away. They also get some medicated grain when they are separated from the dams at night. Luckily we haven't lost any kids to it, but they sure are not as cute to hold and love on when they are going through the loose stool phase!