On the lookout for autumn illness

With continued weeks of rain during what should have been the summer months, lungworm has been a bone of contention for most beef producers and will remain so for a while, says Wiltshire vet Keith Cutler. But liverfluke should also be on the radar.

“Unless an acute outbreak is observed, in which case a broad spectrum wormer is advisable, consider worming later for a longer protection period.”

But Mr Cutler has concerns some farmers aren’t sticking to the advise given by vets. “I’ve seen incidences where vets have prescribed levamisole wormers to paralyse worms before they are coughed up. However, when they have gone into the merchants to buy the products, they have been encouraged to go for the cheaper option, which often isn’t effective and in some instances has led to death of adult cows.”

Producers should also be on the lookout for fly strike, he warns. “We’ve seen cases of summer mastitis in suckler cows and also

Look out for…
  • Lungworm and liver fluke
  • Pneumonia prevention protocols
  • Reduced straw could mean coccidiosis
  • Over fat cows mean more calving problems
the odd case of fly strike on calves, particularly when rubber rings have been used for castration. This isn’t a case of negligence, simply the wet and warm weather has resulted in more flies than usual,” he adds.

And as autumn calvers are starting to calve, Mr Cutler has already seen the effects of too much grass over summer on some farms. “Cows are in too higher peak of condition and are, therefore, having difficulty calving. It’s vital these cows lose a condition score before calving, as no one wants or needs the cost of a caesarian. It may also be worth intervening earlier than normal even when cows have historically naturally calved well on their own,” adds Mr Cutler.

To further keep costs down, it may be worth pregnancy diagnosing spring calvers before housing and being stricter with culling. “With forage, concentrate and housing all costing farmers more, it won’t pay to house empty cows over winter.”

With straw likely to be in short supply over winter, Solihull vet Steve Borsberry is advising some of his clients to wean calves earlier and look at over wintering options, or alternative feeds. “Suckler cows are in good condition from excessive grass growth this season, so will cope with weaning earlier, providing the right feed and wintering option is available for calves.”

However, with lack of available straw could come the increased risk to coccidiosis, warns Leicester vet Peter Orpin. “As bedding becomes scarce, particularly for winter indoor calvers, the risk becomes higher. It may be advisable to consider a strategic anti-coccidial treatment. Risk will also be higher when calves are predisposed to pneumonia, so prevention there is equally as vital.

“Every year we tell farmers to check adequate ventilation is provided to prevent pneumonia,” adds Mr Cutler. “Remove any bales stacked up against the inlets, or stinging nettles, brambles that have perhaps been allowed to grow up the side of building inlets as well. Providing the right ventilation is vital, particularly if we continue with a wet and warm winter.”

If any changes have been made to buildings over the last year, Mr Borsberry says ventilation checks will be even more necessary. “Consider time of housing, minimising stress levels and discuss vaccination methods with your vet.”

And despite greater awareness of tyre wire problems on dairy farms, some beef farmers are still reporting problems, adds Mr Orpin.

“Half of my clients have magnets in their cows as tyre wires continue to be ingested as they fall from clamped silage.”