End of warm spells sees lungworm risk on the rise

As warmer periods come to an end and the heavy dews appear in the morning, be on guard for lungworm in cattle, warn vets who have already seen cases this autumn.

Wilts-based vet Keith Cutler has been called to four cases in the past two weeks, all of which have been in adult cattle.

“In beef herds we’re seeing a small amount of coughing, but in the dairy herds it is reducing milk yields by 15-18%.

“Beef cattle dung samples do appear negative, suggesting animals have enough immunity to prevent clinical cases developing.

But they may continue to show rumbling signs in the form of coughing.”

Producers seeing lungworm now should worm and then bring cattle inside, advises independent vet consultant Tony Andrews.

“But be prepared for some cases to get worse, as highly infected cases may result in death.”

Most farmers with affected stock have no option now but to worm, reckons Mr Cutler.

“But on one dairy farm which vaccinates stock a review of its lungworm control policy is also needed.

“Vaccination against husk relies on a constant challenge to maintain immunity.

It’s possible these animals aren’t receiving sufficient challenge, so they may need a second vaccination before turnout after their second winter.”

East Point Vet Services Mark Corrigan says prolonged warm spells in the south of England are ideal for hatching lungworm larvae.

“When it occurs in young heifers the most likely reason is that they have not had enough exposure at a young age to boost immunity.”

Mr Corrigan recommends following either a worming, bolus or vaccination control programme before turnout, with grazing low-level exposure pasture after adult cattle.

Dr Andrews adds that those experiencing lungworm this year should definitely have a vaccination programme in place for next year.

“Youngstock should be vaccinated twice, at four weeks and two weeks before turnout.”

But refrain from grazing on any pasture that had calves on it the previous year, he adds.

“After vaccination, immunity can be checked with blood tests.”

Glos vet Chris Watson advises taking particular care when buying in new cattle in autumn, as naive animals not having exposure early on in the season may pick up lungworm now.

Equally, purchases may bring in lungworm with them.

“Consider housing them straight away rather than grazing them.”