4 livestock health issues to address ahead of turnout

For those who haven’t already turned out cattle, below Sophia Elworthy from Torch Farm Vets gives her tips for jobs to complete ahead of turnout.

See also: Q&A: Everything you need to know about liver fluke in cattle

1. Parasites

Parasite control forms a large part of preparation for turnout, particularly considering which parasites may have overwintered inside animals. 

Liver fluke is going to be an important consideration and your risk will depend on how long your cattle wintered outside.

If your cattle have been housed for at least 10 weeks, most flukicides should cover more mature stages of fluke, but if your cattle have not been housed for at least 10 weeks, you will need to consider which flukicide is most appropriate.

Speak to your vet or registered suitably qualified person (SQP).

Gutworms require attention as well. If your first-season grazers were not treated after housing with a product to eliminate hibernating larvae in the gut, they will require treatment for this before turnout. 

It is also important to review how you will administer your 2020 gut wormers.

  • If you plan to use a pour-on product containing Ivermectin, you will need to repeat treatments throughout the grazing season according to the datasheet label.
  • A bolus will provide longer-term protection and reduce the need for gathering groups to treat throughout the summer. A pulse-release bolus is an effective method to allow periodic drug release and some exposure to parasites in between the pulses of wormer release.
  • Be wary of long-acting, persistent preparations, as these can limit the development of an immunity to worms (including lungworm), which may have repercussions in their second grazing season.
  • Be vigilant for lungworm in the late summer/early autumn, as you may need to review your level of protection if you don’t vaccinate for lungworm.

Lungworm control will depend on your individual farm risk. If your herd is at high risk, you will need to consider vaccinating with an oral dose of live irradiated larvae.

The vaccine course must be completed a minimum of two weeks before turnout and it is critical you don’t administer any other wormer treatments during the vaccination course, including before and after vaccination.

Read the datasheet carefully before using a lungworm vaccine.  

2. Minerals

Mineral supplementation will be specific to your farm, so it is important to know where your herd levels lie. 

There are many trace element bolus preparations available, but be sure to avoid oversupplementation with copper, especially if you are providing supplementary concentrate feed to youngstock through the grazing period. 

Similarly, oversupplementation with iodine can bind up maternal antibodies in colostrum, so if you don’t have a deficiency, it is unlikely you need to supplement. Consult your vet to determine your herd’s individual needs.

Magnesium is a critical element that will have fatal and sudden effects if animals become deficient.

Magnesium is not stored well in cattle and cannot be mobilised quickly when blood levels become low, so daily intakes are essential. 

Spring poses a significant risk to daily intakes due to high grass protein and potassium levels. These both reduce absorption of magnesium through the rumen.

This, combined with low magnesium uptake in grass during the spring months, can be disastrous for magnesium blood levels in cattle. 

You need to ensure you provide a readily available source of magnesium at about 30g a cow a day in either a compound feed, supplementary mineral or bolus format.

3. Clostridial disease

Clostridial disease requires preparation for pre-turnout. Blackleg is one of the more notable diseases that may demand protection on your farm.

Factors that can pre-dispose animals to disease include recent skin wounds (such as disbudding or castration), diet changes (such as turnout), liver fluke and contaminated needle injection sites.

Vaccination is inexpensive and requires two doses as a primary course – the full course must be completed at least two weeks before the main risk period is anticipated.

4. Vaccinations

Leptospirosis is an important consideration before turnout. It can be transmitted through open watercourses.

If your cattle have access to these, it is important to ensure they are protected if your farm is at particular risk or your disease surveillance indicates your herd requires protection. 

Similarly, if your stock boundaries are not secure, ensure bovine viral diarrhoea and infectious bovine rhinotracheitis vaccinations are up to date to protect your stock.


Each month, Farmers Weekly brings you advice from XLVets members on a range of different subjects. Sophia Elworthy from Torch Farm Vets gives her tips on turnout.

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