Veterinary surgeons are being urged to work closely with their farmers to provide accurate and reliable sampling data that will develop a wider understanding of managing coccidiosis in lambs.

Fiona Lovatt, president of the Sheep Veterinary Society.

The key testing period – May, June and July – is approaching and Fiona Lovatt, independent sheep consultant and president of the Sheep Veterinary Society, says vets have a vital role in providing feedback to broaden the industry’s knowledge of this costly disease.

“The more on-farm information we can capture on coccidiosis, the greater the long-term benefit for the industry as a whole,” Dr Lovatt said.

“While farmers are well aware of the disease, there is a lack of understanding about pathogenic coccidiosis versus non-pathogenic – and also about the right time to treat young stock to remain on top of the disease.”

An independent UK report, facilitated by Bayer Animal Health UK and produced by Flock Health in Durham, showed May and June remained the peak season for pathogenic coccidiosis identification.

The report covers the past two years of veterinary work, with nearly 250 samples submitted from UK flocks to SAC laboratories for testing between 2012 and 2014. Of the total analysed, 22 results were negative and 13 non-pathogenic, with 212 recording pathogenic results, 86 per cent positive for pathogenic coccidiosis.

Test submissions were at their highest between mid-March and June, and Dr Lovatt is keen to encourage further, and more accurate, recording in the future.

“This report reiterates the importance of speciation testing in determining the presence of pathogenic coccidiosis on-farm,” she said. “While it confirms the disease mainly affects lambs between the ages of four to 12 weeks, it also demonstrates how important it is to know which species is present in the flock.”

For the report to be of increasing value, vets are encouraged to:

  • Take faecal samples from between 10 and 15 lambs in a group, not just from single animals;
  • Record the reason for sampling, for example, screening/ monitoring or clinical signs of disease for the sampled animals;
  • Record age and management systems; and
  •  Keep age groups sampled together.

Sampling forms are available from Bayer Animal Health commercial livestock managers, who will be encouraging a greater uptake to add value to the already collected results.

Results from 2014 sampling, when compared with previous findings, did indicate a greater presence of both Eimeria crandallis and E ovinoidalis on farm, with the majority of cases recorded in May and June.

“Gathering reliable information is vital if we are to find ways to effectively manage and stay on top of this disease in the UK moving forwards,” says Dr Lovatt. “Ultimately, this will be to the benefit of all parties involved.”

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