There is an opportunity to treat for and get on top of parasites at housing, but it is important to check whether treatments are justified.
Treating first and second season grazing cattle at housing for gutworms, as well as fluke in areas considered high risk, can prevent problems spiralling and causing production losses.
Vet Maarten Boers of The Livestock Partnership, West Sussex, says using a knockout treatment for gutworms at housing for first season grazing cattle is important, given their lack of immunity to kill off the infectious larvae.
When it comes to fluke, the National Animal Disease Information Service is forecasting a high risk of liver fluke in Scotland, northern England and North Wales.
And with cases now being seen south of these regions, the Control of Worms Sustainably group is urging farmers in these areas to consider treating cattle two weeks after housing.
Prof Diana Williams, of the University of Liverpool, says: “Treating infected cattle shortly after housing with a product containing triclabendazole will kill immature and mature fluke, provided there is no resistance.
“This will ensure animals do not re-infect pastures with liver fluke eggs next spring.”
Checking whether treatments were justified was also recommended, and testing individual animals using new blood and dung tests can confirm if cattle have picked up liver fluke during the grazing season.
Prof Williams says: “Consider whether there is a history of fluke on-farm, whether animals have been grazed in muddy areas where intermediate host mud snails live, or whether cattle have been purchased from fluky areas.
“If this is not the case, treatment is unlikely to be necessary, saving time and money and helping protect the few medicines available to combat this parasite.
“Farmers should discuss product choices with their vet or suitably qualified person as part of their herd health plan, but essentially strategic treatment of at risk animals in winter will help protect pastures in spring.”
Look out for lungworm
LUNGWORM is another issue to be aware of and, after coming across cases recently, Mr Boers urges farmers to be aware of the symptoms due to the speed in which the problem can escalate.
He says: “It is a late summer and early autumn problem and is mostly seen in weaned animals, but can strike quickly. It is mostly seen in weaned animals which are grazed as a mob together.
“Where calves are grazed at foot, they build up immunity slowly, as their mother essentially acts as a hoover, so they are only exposed to small volumes of infective larvae.
“The best method of prevention for lungworm is to vaccinate youngstock by using a live vaccine. This is given as two separate doses at six weeks, then two weeks prior to turn out.
“If lungworm is considered an issue on-farm, it may be advisable to vaccinate prior to the second year at grass.”
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR AND ASSOCIATED COSTS
REDUCED weight gain, carcase quality and a cost to the immune system of controlling parasites.
Costs have been put at a 30 per cent reduction in growth rate and 30kg difference at finishing for animals with good control at the time of housing.
ANAEMIA from high burden of sucking lice. Itching leading to less time eating and lying meaning decreased weight gain. It is difficult to quantify, but has been put at a cost of millions of pounds to the UK cattle industry.
COUGHING, weight loss and in severe cases death. An average of 1-7 per cent mortality rate, although it is likely sub-clinical infections could be of far greater economic relevance.
REDUCED liveweight gain, treatment costs and a cost to the immune system of controlling parasites. The cost of fluke to the UK industry has been estimated at £23 million, with an extra 80 days to reach slaughter weight costing between £25-£35/head.