Weather Could Trigger Lungworm Outbreak

UK - The recent wet weather following the earlier dry conditions experienced by much of the UK may have created a potential lungworm time bomb, warns Merial Animal Health, and farmers need to be vigilant in order to catch the disease early.
calendar icon 22 August 2011
clock icon 4 minute read

Similarly, farmers who chose not to worm their youngstock during the dry spell may also be putting their cattle at risk from gutworms, which in turn could be having a real effect on the growth rates whilst the animals are at grass.

“Lungworm is a very real problem and one that can affect not only young animals but also milking cows, with a dramatic impact on yield,” says Fiona MacGillivray, technical veterinary manager at Merial.

“The very dry spring experienced by much of the UK created conditions where lungworm larvae have potentially been trapped in the dried faeces, which have been building up on the grazing areas. As a result, it is possible that animals have not been exposed to lungworm larvae, something that is so important to allow animals to build up and maintain their natural immunity to the disease. Even adult cattle which have developed immunity through previous grazing seasons can be susceptible to infection and disease if they are not exposed to larvae each grazing season, as this acts as a natural ‘booster’ to maintain protection after cows have been turned out to pasture.”

“The wet weather may have created a potential time bomb effect, with the sudden release of trapped larvae onto pasture following heavy rainfall,” continued Ms MacGillivray.

“Increasing the chance that animals will become affected by this debilitating disease. It is vital that farmers are aware of this situation and alert to the symptoms of the disease, ensuring they catch it early and minimise the potential impact on their stock.”

Merial Animal Health has outlined the following steps that farmers should be aware of in order to effectively minimise the risks that lungworm pose to their herds, including their yield potential:

Lungworm Checklist:

Symptoms include:

  • Breathing rate increases (this may double)
  • Coughing, particularly when exercised
  • Rapid loss of condition
  • Drop in milk yield
  • Deaths in severe cases
  • Speak to your veterinary surgeon
  • Recognise the signs and treat as soon as lungworm has been confirmed in the herd
  • Treat all animals in the group, not just those showing signs of disease, as they have all been exposed to infected pastures
  • The disease can affect both youngstock and adults
  • Worm adult dairy cattle with a nil milk withhold wormer such as Eprinex®
  • Using a product which has persistency means cattle remain protected at grass
  • Some very sick animals may be affected with secondary bacterial infections and require additional treatments including antibiotics. It is wise to consult with your vet.

“The summer months are a critical time in tackling lungworm as the first cases begin to appear. The irritation caused by the worms stimulates the lungs to react and large quantities of mucus are produced,” Ms MacGillivray explains. “This causes the tell-tale symptoms of breathing difficulties and coughing.”

In addition to the symptoms of the animal itself, milk yields in adult dairy cows can also drop significantly, accompanied by a rapid loss of condition. If left unchecked, the disease can cause long-term damage to the lungs that will irrevocably impact on the animal’s productivity. Some cattle can also exhibit hypersensitivity to the early stages of worm development, which can potentially result in sudden death.

“It is critical that farmers employ an effective herd management strategy that includes consideration of lungworm treatment and control and which meets the specific requirements of their stock. This would be prepared in consultation with a vet and would take into account several key factors, such as weather conditions each season, bought-in cattle may require quarantine treatment before entering the herd, and general pasture management,” Ms MacGillivray stresses.

“Although lungworm is not endemic on every cattle farm, it is essential that all farmers know how to recognise and deal with it, if and when it happens, and how to try and prevent it becoming a problem in the first place.”

“We encourage farmers to rely on their vet’s advice, but generally treatment should be given to all cattle in the group as soon as disease is present, and a further treatment at housing will ensure all cattle are free from lungworm,” advises Ms MacGillivray.

“Dairy farmers can be assured that EPRINEX®, which can be used to control both lungworm and gutworms, has no requirement for withdrawal of milk and so is ideal for use in lactating dairy cows,” says Ms MacGillivray.

“Critically, EPRINEX® also provides persistent protection against re-infection for up to 28 days, allowing the cattle to continue grazing pastures without risk of further lungworm disease for that period.”

TheCattleSite News Desk

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