Cryptosporidiosis (crypto) is caused by a protozoan parasite and is similar to coccidiosis.  According to Max Thornsberry, DVM, with Milk Specialties Global Animal Nutrition, crypto can cause scours in calves as young as five days of age, but often appears in weaned calves when wet, muddy environmental conditions exist.

Crypto does not respond well to treatment. Thornsberry suggests the following management practices to prevent it:

  1. Calves must be born into a clean, dry environment. Newborn calves lick and suck on the legs, udder and abdomen of their dams.  If these surfaces are contaminated with crypto oocysts, the disease will begin at birth.
  2. Calf hutches, pens and stalls must be steam-cleaned to kill crypto oocysts. No known disinfectant will destroy viable crypto oocysts.  As soon as newborn calves are placed into a hutch, pen or stall, they lick and suck all exposed surfaces as they explore their new surroundings. This is the most likely source of crypto oocyst infection.
  3. Calves must be maintained on clean, dry bedding. Crypto oocysts thrive in wet conditions, feces and any wet environment. Keep bedding free of feces, and especially, keep bedding dry.  Prevent fecal contamination of feed and water.
  4. Any calf with symptoms of crypto should be isolated from pen mates. Nose-to-nose contact should be prevented.
  5. Research indicates the best treatment is energy. Keep feeding the calf.
  6. Although direct antibodies against crypto are rarely found in lactating cow colostrum, antibodies against other typical causes of calf diarrhea will definitely lessen the severity and duration of crypto-induced scours. Crypto is an opportunist disease, so good colostrum management is important.

Read more of Thornsberry’s insights on crypto in the most recent issue of the Vita Plus Starting Strong newsletter here.