Act Now To Ensure Good Herd Health

UK - Housing is a critical time of the year to consider herd health according to Merial Animal Health Limited. Treatment for internal and external parasites and steps to prevent or minimise the risks from calf pneumonia are just some of the issues that should be taken into consideration.
calendar icon 4 November 2010
clock icon 4 minute read

In terms of parasite treatment, Merial’s Veterinary Adviser Fiona MacGillivray says: “There are some very strong economic and herd health reasons why dairy producers need an all year-round programme to deal with worms as well as external parasites.”

“Housing is one of the important times of the year for implementing this parasite control programme. Treating at housing will remove gutworm and lungworm which have been picked up during the grazing season, ensuring that your cows can realise the full benefit from their feed.”

Test results revealed by Merial show that as many as 93 per cent of UK herds are suffering from a high gutworm challenge and that this could be costing the industry as much £281m1. Removing gutworm can result in an increase of anything up to two litres per cow per day.

“Using a pour-on solution that treats for gutworms and lungworm as well as external parasites, is cost-effective for dairy producers,” says Fiona, “Ensuring that your animals are free of parasites during housing will stand them in good stead when they come to be turned our next spring, as well as ensuring that you can get maximum feed efficiency during the winter months, especially this winter when experts are forecasting a potentially large increase in feed costs."

Housing is also a good time to be thinking about calf pneumonia and ways of preventing it. Miss MacGillivray says: “Calf pneumonia is one of the most common diseases affecting young cattle. It is often a group problem, and can particularly affect housed cattle. There are a number of factors involved; the interaction of various infectious organisms (bacteria and viruses), the level of immunity of the calf and environmental factors. However, there are a number of steps that farmers can take to ensure that they reduce the risk.”

Good housing management is critical to pneumonia prevention. Ventilation should be sufficient and appropriate to all weather conditions to ensure good air flow through the building. This helps to prevent the build-up of ammonia, which can be an irritant, and stops the natural defence systems in the upper respiratory tract working properly. However, draughts should be prevented as they can also make calves prone to disease.

Regular cleaning and good hygiene will ensure that bedding and floors remain dry, so infectious organisms are less likely to multiply and survive. It is also important to ensure that drainage is kept clear and clean.

Practices that can increase the chances of calf pneumonia occurring include overstocking and mixing cattle of different ages. Miss MacGillivray says: “If there are too many cattle in a small space, the air can become warm and moist, making it a perfect breeding ground for bacteria and viruses. If ventilation in the building is inadequate also, the chances of cattle coming down with the disease are also much higher.

“Generally, older animals are more likely to have been exposed to some of the bugs which can cause pneumonia, and they will have developed immunity against them. However, they still carry the bugs, and can pass them on to younger cattle that do not have the same immunity.”

Anything that causes the animals stress can also increase the likelihood of them contracting pneumonia. The timing of stressful procedures such as disbudding, weaning, castration etc, should, therefore, be considered carefully.

In some circumstances, vaccination can play an important role in helping to prevent calf pneumonia. Various vaccines are available to help protect against viruses, bacteria or a combination of both and their use should be discussed with your veterinary surgeon, who can advise on possible vaccination strategies.

When cattle become visibly infected with pneumonia, they should be isolated as soon as they are identified to help prevent the spread to others within the group. Fast and effective treatment is critical to minimising any potential lung damage, and ensuring a speedy recovery.

“A fast-acting, long-lasting antibiotic that specifically targets the lungs and only requires a single injection helps to minimise the impact of pneumonia and reduces the stress for animals being treated and stress for the handler treating the cattle! At all times handling should be kept to a minimum to reduce additional stress on the animals,” says Miss MacGillivray.

Fluke is an increasing problem right across the country, and throughout the year. Dairy farmers who are concerned that liver fluke is affecting their herd should consult with their vet or animal medicines advisor about suitable treatments. It is important not to forget to treat youngstock which have been out at grass this year if fluke is a problem on your farm.

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