Parasitic diseases on the increase

The wet summer has brought about a massive increase in parasitic diseases in cattle across the West Country, costing farmers thousands of pounds.

Information from the Veterinary Laboratories Agency, published on the disease monitoring website, revealed that reports in July of parasitic pneumonia in the region were double normal levels. Gut worm scour levels were nine times higher than usual in south-west England, and more than double the norm in Wales.

And disease levels were only likely to get higher, said vet Andrew Davies, from the Southfield Veterinary Group in Dorchester.

“We are investigating reports of coughing, reduced milk yields and loss of condition – a lot more than 12 months ago. Also, given the wet summer, we expect an upsurge in fluke in a month or two.”

Colleague Andy Adler warned farmers to keep an eye out for symptoms such as weight loss, scouring and coughing, and to speak to their vet about treatments for each disease. “People need to be looking out for these problems and taking faecal samples for testing. These diseases could potentially be a major cost, with considerable knock-on effects.”

Sheep were also suffering from high levels of gut worm scours – more than double those in June and higher than the three-year average. The problem was particularly rife in the south-east of England, reaching six times the normal level.

“This summer has turned into parasite heaven,” said Jonathan Harwood, a veterinary surgeon at Stock1st in Sussex. “The wet conditions, with no drying out to postpone hatching, have meant high larval survival on pasture, and high uptake by lambs. They have brought forward the normal October peak by a couple of months.”

He advised farmers to keep worming until the grass stopped growing and to be on the lookout for resistance to some wormers.

Vets and livestock farmers will be waiting expectantly for August’s figures, which are due to be uploaded onto the FarmDisease site in mid-September.


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