News & Advice

Vaccinations and Coccidiosis

Sep 3, 2020 | Dry stock, Grazing youngstock


Vaccinating your young cattle is an easy, economical and important way to keep your livestock healthy and protect the future of your herd. Your calves should be vaccinated with:

  • 6 in 1 vaccine no later than 6 weeks old, then given a booster shot 4 weeks later. This vaccination prevents pulpy kidney disease, tetanus, black disease, malignant oedema, blackleg, and sordelli. The booster shot can be delayed up to 5 months, but the calf is not fully protected until they have received the booster.
  • Leptospirosis or “Lepto” continues to be the most important zoonotic (animal to human transmission) disease to protect ourselves from. This is because New Zealand has one of the highest rates of Leptospirosis infections in the human population. “Lepto” vaccinations should be administered from 4 weeks of age onward. A booster shot should be given 4-6 weeks later, after which animals require a yearly booster (one injection). This, along with good hygiene measures will protect calves, cows, and humans from Leptospirosis bacteria which are spread through urine and placental material.
  • Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD). Many farms should include Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) in the youngstock vaccination programme, to protect against the possibility of BVD being introduced to your herd (either through bought-in stock including bulls or nose-to-cose contact across a fence or at grazing). BVD vaccines can be administered from 3 or 4 months old depending on the type of vaccination. The booster shot should be administered 3-4 weeks later. An annual booster is then required, four weeks prior to mating.



Farmers should start drenching for worms 3-4 weeks after calves are put out on grass. If your calves are not thriving another thing to consider, apart from worms, is coccidiosis.

Coccidiosis is a parasitic disease which primarily occurs in young cattle between 3 to 8 months of age. It is often mistaken for a high worm burden. It can cause death and can have long term impacts on productivity. Infection occurs through calves eating infected pasture, water, feed, or from grooming themselves. Infection often occurs when there is significant build-up of coccidia oocysts on paddocks and overstocking, especially in wet conditions.

Another trigger for coccidiosis is the discontinuation of meal feeding that has a coccidiostat in it. Most meals contain coccidiostats which prevent the infection becoming established, but if inadequate meal is being fed or meal feeding is stopped then infection can establish. The incubation period is 16 to 30 days and signs start with the sudden onset of diarrhoea which often has blood in it as well as being runny. Diagnosis is often made on clinical signs but faecal samples are useful to confirm the presence of coccidia oocysts. Treatment with Toltrazuril is usually successful if instigated early in the disease provided there are no underlying diseases such as BVD. Subsequent growth depends on the degree of damage sustained by the gut. Prevention of in-contact animals is important and treating the whole group with a coccidiocide containing the active ingredient Toltrazuril (e.g. Baycox, Catolyst) can be useful. If the disease is in the early stages, then coccidiostats in medicated feed can be given. This needs to be fed for 28 days during periods of exposure, or timed from experience of previous outbreaks. However, removing sick calves, reducing stocking density, avoiding stress, and increasing rotation frequency is often sufficient to control an outbreak.

All animals need a vaccination, drenching, and stocking plan. For it to work, it’s going to rely on you keeping an accurate record of livestock and when they were vaccinated, drenched, fed, or given a booster. Please ask your vet for advice on creating a youngstock/animal health plan for management of your calves.

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