Wet summer ideal for goat coccidia

Coccidiosis represents a major economic drain on goat herds. Hot, wet conditions during summer are ideal for development and transmission of coccidia. In order to properly protect your investment against Coccidiosis, it is necessary to understand what coccidia are and how they proliferate.

What is Coccidia?

Coccidia are single-celled parasites that live in goats’ intestines. All adult goats harbor coccidia in their gut, even healthy goats. Coccidiosis is the disease that results from uncontrolled infection (proliferation) of coccidia. Coccidiosis symptoms can be either subclinical or clinical. Subclinical cases result in decreased feed intake, reduced weight gain and unthrifty appearance and are difficult to detect due to an absence of diarrhea. Undiagnosed subclinical cases of coccidiosis are quite common. If left untreated, subclinical cases can develop into clinical disease. Clinical coccidiosis can vary in severity. Some goats experience a slight loss of appetite and decreased weight gain along with light, short-term diarrhea. Severe cases of coccidiosis result in dark, bloody, foul smelling diarrhea; diarrhea containing mucous and blood; loss of weight; rough hair coat; dehydration; and, in some cases, death within 24 hours.

Young, sick and stressed goats are most susceptible to coccidiosis symptoms. Kids less than 5 months of age are particularly susceptible since their immune system is often still developing. Stresses that can induce a coccidiosis outbreak include: weaning, drastic weather changes, rapid feed changes, transport and rough handling.

Continuous exposure to a particular species of coccidia stimulates an immune response that results in limited protection against that particular species of coccidia. This is why adult goats tend to be resistant to the development of coccidiosis. Also, kids raised in pasture conditions will often develop immunity on their own. However, severe challenge or stress can depress the goat’s natural immunity to the point that disease is induced. Goats that survive usually become immune; however, they may be permanently unthrifty or stunted due to extensive damage to the intestinal lining. This damaged lining is unable to effectively absorb nutrients.

Coccidia Lifecycle

In order to manage the impact of coccidia, it is necessary to understand their lifecycle. The coccidian lifecycle begins when goats consume infective oocysts. Once inside the goat, coccidia are released from the oocyst and invade intestinal cells. Rapid multiplication occurs resulting in the destruction of intestinal cells. In roughly 21 days, oocysts (coccidia eggs) are formed and passed in the feces.  Oocysts are not immediately infective once they are shed into the environment. Proper moisture, temperature and oxygen levels are required for oocysts to become infective. In general, the warmer the weather the faster the development into infective oocysts. When conditions are right, this process can occur in as little as 24 to 48 hours. Once oocysts become infective they are very hardy and can remain viable in the environment for up to a year; however, 2 to 3 months is the norm. Infective oocysts survive best in moist, shaded areas and can even survive freezing temperatures. When a goat consumes an infective oocyst the process starts over again.

Coccidiostats are drugs that inhibit the development of coccidia. Remember that these do not kill coccidia. Normally, use of coccidiostats prior to anticipated susceptible periods are an effective management tool in preventing and controlling coccidiosis. Coccidiostats that are presently labeled for use in goats include monensin (Rumensin®) and decoquinate (Deccox®). However, use of coccidiostats alone may not provide adequate control under some conditions. Contact your veterinarian for recommendations for strategic use of these and other drugs in the control of coccidiosis.

Goats fed a properly balanced diet are better able to mount an immune response and recover from parasitic challenge than animals that are deficient in one or more nutrients. Proper nutrition involves providing adequate amounts of protein, energy, water, minerals and vitamins. Antibodies, which fight parasitic invaders, are composed of protein. Energy is needed to drive the metabolic functions involved in mounting an immune response. Proper hydration is absolutely necessary for metabolic function. Several minerals and vitamins are also directly involved in the immune response.


Wet conditions result in ideal conditions for the development of coccidiosis. Coccidiosis is a potentially fatal and economically significant disease of goats caused by an intestinal protozoan. Kids up to weaning age are most susceptible to coccidiosis. Control of coccidiosis involves a combination of drugs and management practices that limit exposure of goats to infective oocytes and minimize stress. Consult your veterinarian for recommendations for strategic use of drugs in response to coccidiosis outbreaks and to help prevent future outbreaks.

SWEETLIX® Meat Maker® supplements are designed to help bridge the nutritional gap between available forages and a goat’s nutritional needs. Times of high parasitic challenge can increase the nutritional requirements of goats. SWEETLIX® 16:8 Meat Maker® with Rumensin®, is a medicated mineral supplement for goats designed to help prevent coccidiosis. When used as directed, SWEETLIX 16:8 Meat Maker with Rumensin will help prevent coccidiosis caused by Eimeria crandallis, Eimeria christenseni and Eimeria ninakohlyakimorae. SWEETLIX 16:8 Meat Maker with Rumensin delivers a complete mineral and vitamin package specially formulated for the nutritional needs of goats that includes organic copper, cobalt, manganese, zinc and selenium from Bioplex® Hi-Four and Sel-Plex®. These organic minerals are easily absorbed and readily metabolized, thereby optimizing animal performance. These trace minerals are co-factors in enzymes critical to the animal’s defense system, growth and reproduction.

For more information, contact your local SWEETLIX dealer or call 1-87-SWEETLIX to speak with a SWEETLIX nutritionist.


Rumensin® is a registered trademark of Elanco Animal Health.

Deccox® is a registered trademark of Zoetis

Bioplex® and Sel-Plex® are registered trademarks of Alltech