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Cattle Farmers Alert for Outbreaks of Lungworm Disease

03 October 2013

UK - Farmers are urged to remain alert for lungworm disease in cattle as the peak period for infection continues into October, according to the latest Parasite Forecast from NADIS, sponsored by Merial Animal Health.

Outbreaks of lungworm disease can occur very suddenly and farmers need to be aware of what signs to look for, so early intervention can be achieved. Wet weather, especially heavy showers after a long dry spell, can quickly increase pasture infectivity.

“After the dry summer conditions experienced by much of the UK, there is likely to be an increased risk of lungworm disease in cattle following the outbreaks of wet weather we have experienced. All ages of cattle can be affected, especially if larvae have been locked away in dried dung pats over the summer. Cattle will have had little exposure to boost any natural immunity they might have developed in previous years” says Fiona MacGillivray, Veterinary Advisor for Merial Animal Health.

“Unvaccinated spring-born calves and yearling calves are particularly susceptible to infection, especially those which have finished parasitic gastroenteritis (PGE) control or those on a ‘dose and move’ system. Some farmers can get caught out if they have bought in animals which are carriers of infection without showing any signs of disease – a naïve herd can suffer huge losses in such cases, both in terms of reduced milk yield and even some deaths where severe disease occurs.

“Neighbouring farms can also be the source of infection, with infective larvae able to be transmitted by up to 10 feet or 3 metres from fungal spores on the dung. Farmers should keep a close eye on high risk animals which may be infected and act quickly if symptoms develop.”

Once lungworm has been identified, treatment using a Group 3 wormer can be given to remove all stages of infection. If given at housing, this type of wormer is also effective against lice and mange, which if infestation is severe, can cause poor liveweight gain due to interrupted feeding patterns.
Eprinomectin can be used to treat the disease in lactating cattle without the need to withhold milk.

Liver fluke disease risk remains high in the north and west, with occasional losses expected over the rest of the UK.

Recent research has shown that, in the UK and Ireland, 97% of liver fluke found in cattle at housing are at the late immature or mature stage1 so treating animals as they are brought in should remove the majority of infection at that time. Out-wintered cattle should be treated in autumn to remove any fluke picked up on pasture later in the summer.

Large numbers of ewes and lambs are likely to have picked up infection earlier in the year, such that many will be carrying adult fluke and shedding fluke eggs through September. Fencing off wet areas or avoiding their grazing highly infected pastures until February will help reduce infection pressure. Animals affected by acute liver fluke can often simply be found dead so any unexplained deaths should be investigated.

Sheep grazing pasture with a history of fluke should be dosed in the autumn. A second fluke treatment 4-6 weeks later may be required, following advice from the animal health prescriber.

TheCattleSite News Desk

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