16th January 2013

Research Reveals Cryptosporidiosis is Present on Every Farm

Cryptosporidiosis looks highly likely to be present on all farms, according to the latest findings of a research team at Glasgow University.

Professor Nick Jonsson, Professor of Production Animal Health and Disease at Glasgow University, told attendees at Quality Meat Scotland’s Research and Development Conference today (January 16th) the evidence suggests all farms have a level of Cryptosporidium infection.

“The results of our research indicates it is highly likely that if calves are tested regularly positive cases will be discovered on every farm.

“However, the extent to which the disease causes a problem varies widely giving a clear indication that steps can be taken to reduce the impact of the disease,” said Prof Jonsson.

A recent study, funded by Quality Meat Scotland, Harbro, Alpharma, The Wellcome Trust, the University of Glasgow and Moredun Research Institute, was undertaken on 41 beef suckler farms in Aberdeenshire and Caithness. It indicated that all the farms had evidence of infection and it also identified some risk factors for high levels of infection, morbidity and mortality on farms.

“Some management procedures seem to be favourable for the disease and mixed infections of Crypto with other bugs are common causes of diarrhoea. The best advice to farmers is to prioritise control of diarrhoea, rather than worrying specifically about Crypto control,” said Prof Jonsson.

“Until we know more about how Crypto causes disease, producers should avoid being distracted by seeking a source of blame for the arrival of Crypto on the farm”, he said.

“Instead they should focus on management techniques to reduce diarrhoea more generally. These include cleaning and disinfecting pens before calving, the use of vaccines against rotavirus, coronavirus and E. coli, as well as the application of robust biosecurity procedures.”

The appropriate management of groups of calves is another promising area.

“Further research is needed but we have evidence to suggest diarrhoea problems are worse in herds where groups of calves are mixed soon after calving. It looks likely that careful management of groups of cows and calves is an important factor in calf health,” Prof Jonsson added.

He also urged producers to seek professional advice from a vet when they lose a calf to ensure the correct cause of the problem is established and to source replacement animals from high health status herds.

“Overall, though my main message to producers today is to think in a ‘bigger picture’ way than just what drugs should be used to control a Crypto problem.

“We all need to be carefully considering the management systems that can be put in place to prevent diarrhoea in calves.

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