Long-term Production Effects of Cryptosporidiosis in Beef Calves

The results of a six-month study looking at the long-term effects of clinical cryptosporidiosis on calves in a Scottish suckler herd have recently been published. 

Researchers based at Moredun monitored 27 spring born calves from birth up to 20 days of age.  The herd had experienced issues with cryptosporidiosis in neonatal calves in previous years.  No changes were made to the routine farm management with all calves born inside and remaining housed for the duration of the study. 

The calves were assessed every other day and scored for faecal consistency and demeanour.  They were screened using a PCR for evidence of cryptosporidial oocyst shedding between 3 and 6 days of age; and all 27 tested positive.  Eight calves developed severe diarrhoea (group 1), 10 had moderate signs (group 2) and 9 remained clinically normal (group 3).  No other enteric pathogens were detected during the course of the study. 

The calves were weighed at intervals between birth and 6 months of age.  At the end of the study group 1 calves were on average 34 kg lighter than group 3 calves (see table below).  This confirmed that compensatory growth does not occur following clinical recovery from acute cryptosporidiosis. 

It was suggested that the range in severity of clinical signs may have been due to differences in individual calf resilience/immunity and parasite dose.  Cryptoporidiosis in the neonatal period could lead to uneven batches of calves at weaning with additional costs associated with treatment, supplementary feeding and reduced revenue at sale.


Mean weights of calves (kg)

Group Birth 4 months 5 months 6 months

Weight gain
from birth

1 48.3 170.3 227.6 276.1 227.8
2 45.5 170.6 224.3 272.3 226.7
3 46.5 205.1 262.6 310.1 263.6



Shaw et al., (2020) Long-term production effects of clinical cryptosporidiosis in neonatal calves.  International Journal for Parasitology, 50, 371-376

Posted by Veterinary Services on 07/12/2020

Tags: Cryptosporidiosis, beef, calves