A Lancashire farmer has said his cows have aborted because of the deadly neospora parasite which is found in dogs’ faeces.
A farmer has called for dog owners to be more responsible when walking on farm fields and to pick up after their dogs.
More than a dozen prize pedigree Holstein Fresian cows aborted their calves after what owner and farmer David Talbot believed was caused by the neospora parasite.
The parasite is often found in dogs’ faeces. If they foul on grazing land and pregnant cattle ingest it, it will often cause them to abort or give birth to calves infected for life.
Mr Talbot said early abortion foetus tests came back positive for the parasite.
He said: “It is a nuisance really. We have had probably 17 or 18 cows abort their calves now.
“I think people are probably just not aware; their dog runs off but they are not going to walk across a field to pick up its poo.”
Neospora is the most commonly diagnosed cause of abortion in cattle, with those infected up to seven times more likely to abort.
Mr Talbot of Lower Alston Farm, Ribchester, Lancashire, said it had caused major issues with his farm productivity and costings, leaving selective breeding his only future option.
“We have culled about half of the infected cows,” he said.
“It is hard because it is out of our hands. The cows will always be a carrier of the disease now and are likely to pass it onto offspring.
“We are going to have to try and eradicate it by breeding it out.”
The parasite was last year added to the Cattle Health Certificate Standards (CHeCS) which helps to control and eradicate diseases alongside improving cattle health and welfare.
Ian Nanjiani of Westpoint Farm Vets research team warned of the dangers of the ‘tiny, invisible-to-the-eye’ parasite neospora and urged dog owners to respect where they walk.
He said: “The reservoir of infection is mainly from dogs and the contact with their poo is what does the harm.
“It is a huge problem because there is no available treatment or vaccine, so once cattle are infected often they remain with it for life.
“If we as dog owners – when walking on farm fields or public footpaths through farms – pick up poo and take it with us, it would substantially reduce the risk of infection.”