Almost three quarters of dairy farms sampled in recent bulk milk tests showed some level of exposure to gutworms – significantly compromising herd health and productivity.
The tests were conducted by Norbrook on nearly 300 farms across the UK, from July to December 2015. Results showed a high or very high level of exposure to gutworm in 73 per cent of samples.
Rebecca Laborne, product manager at Norbrook, says these latest results highlight a worryingly high exposure to gutworm in adult dairy cattle.
“The results are quite staggering because gutworms have a substantial impact on herd health and negatively impact milk productivity in dairy cattle. As well as decreasing milk yield, these intestinal parasites decrease appetite, and can have a long term negative impact on herd fertility.”
Norbrook offers free bulk milk samples to gauge levels of infection by measuring the antibody to the gastro-intestinal nematode, Ostertagia ostertagi. High antibody levels have been associated with a drop in annual average milk production of up to 1.2kg/day.
Mrs Laborne says there are many benefits to using an anthelmintic treatment in adult cattle – and these are typically more dramatic in herds with a high proven antibody level.
“When appropriate, treating adult cows with anthelmintics has many proven benefits on performance. This includes increased dry matter intake of up to one kilogramme per cow per day and improved fertility. Other studies show improved fat, protein and milk solids. Yield improvement after treatment can be up to two litres per cow per day,” says Stephanie Small, veterinary advisor at Norbrook.
It is estimated outbreaks of lungworm cost £50-£100 per head in growing cattle, and lost milk production cost in adults could reach £3 per cow per day, resulting in losses of millions of pounds for the UK herd annually.