NADIS disease forecast – cattle (September)

The NADIS disease forecast is based on detailed Met Office data, and regional veterinary reports from 37 farm animal practices and the large animal units at six UK veterinary colleges.

NADIS data can highlight potential livestock disease and parasite incidences before they peak, providing a valuable early warning for the month ahead.

September 2004

Richard Laven BVetMed MRCVS


NADIS Cattle Disease Forecast

Adult Cattle

As the autumn calving season gets properly underway, the number of calving difficulties is going to increase.

Planning and preparation now can save significant amounts of time, effort and money in the future. As always good hygiene is essential. Endometritis levels are only going to get worse as calving begins indoors.

Dirty calving yards don’t just increase the risk of diseases such as endometritis or toxic mastitis, they significantly increase the severity of the disease as well.

Having regular post-calving checks and keeping records of treatment of endometritis can be a useful method of identifying whether calving hygiene is good enough.


The number of abortions remained high last month. Brucellosis returned to mainland UK last year and although Great Britain is still officially Brucellosis free, it is important to remember that all abortions should be reported to your local veterinary office. Additional investigation on top of the Brucella tests is always valuable. 

As herds become larger, the situation will become much more like sheep, with infectious agents causing more abortion and even more economic disruption.

Keeping cows outside can reduce calving-associated diseases, provided fields remain relatively dry, but this significantly increases the risk of milk fever and grass staggers. Undoubtedly the very wet weather over the past month has been associated on some farms with increases in these metabolic problems.

The risk of staggers or milk fever can be reduced by very tight stocking of the dry cows so that they are mainly eating provided rations rather than an unknown quantity of grass of uncertain quality.

This will also prevent dry cows getting fat, which is one of the commonest causes of calving problems.

However the tight stocking rate required can only be achieved on dry, well-drained pasture; a wet muddy field is as bad for endometritis and toxic mastitis as a poorly maintained calving yard.

If September continues as it started with warm dry weather in most, continued calving outside will be a viable option on many farms.

Pregnancy rates were low last month particularly for dairy cows, which had an overall pregnancy rate of 68%. Much of this is due to vets only being called in if the owner considers that there are problems.  Such problems can only get worse as herds become larger and labour more scarce.

This will also lead to a higher number of farms where problems are missed and the vet isn’t even called in. 

Good fertility is vital and should be at the top of any management plan. Getting cows checked for pregnancy at an early stage can save considerable amounts of money.

The wet weather in August didn’t lead to NADIS vets seeing more cases of lameness, digital dermatitis cases fell from their very high level in August, white-line disease and solar ulcer were both below average in numbers.

The number of cases of Foul-in-the-foot, which is the disease most commonly associated with wet weather, did not increase either. Hopefully a dry September will mean that cows enter housing without too many lameness problems.

Now is the time to tackle lameness problem. For the claw horn diseases (sole ulcer and white line problems) foot trimming before housing will get the feet right before they encounter concrete for 24 hours a day.

For digital dermatitis, check your cows. If there are any signs of digital dermatitis  plan a daily footbath regime of copper sulphate, formalin, or similar product for at least the two weeks prior to housing. 

This will treat many of the cows with active lesions and may also eliminate the infection in ‘carrier’ cows that are not showing disease.


August is over but about one third of summer mastitis cases occur in September, so, particularly if it’s warm, maintain fly control, keep a close eye on your dry cows and heifers for the signs of disease and, if possible, avoid using fields where you’ve had more than the occasional summer mastitis case in the past.


Metabolic disease
As noted earlier, the risk of milk fever and staggers is high if we continue to keep getting the warm wet weather. One NADIS vet on a herd with a milk fever problem commented that the grass was just like green water in appearance and texture.

Imbalances in nutrients, particularly magnesium, cannot be avoided if such forage is the main source of minerals. Grass staggers problems are likely to be high this month in cattle out at grass, indeed NADIS vets have already reported some large outbreaks in August.

Plan your strategy now and ensure that your cows at grass in September have a guaranteed daily intake of magnesium and are not relying on grass alone. 


Other Disease Problems
The number of cases of husk seen so far this year has been high, helped by the wet warm weather. September and October are usually the peak months for lungworm so there could be a large number of husk outbreaks in adult cattle and heifers this year.

It is important to remember that one of the first signs of lungworm problems is drop in milk yield which can occur before coughing is seen If you do get lungworm in adult cattle, you should discuss your vaccination and worming regime with your vet.

Fog fever is a problem to look out for in September. This disease is seen in cattle moving from relatively bare field to a fresh relatively lush pasture (often a silage aftermath).

Affected cattle have severe difficulty breathing and froth at the mouth. Pasture management is the best method of prevention

Growing Cattle
Look out for increase cases of husk in unvaccinated youngstock in September. Summer mastitis is also likely to be a potential problem particularly if the weather is warm and humid, as will New Forest Eye.

Both of these diseases are much easier to treat if caught early so regular checking of heifers, combined with fly control, can save you money and prevent significant losses.

Poor fertility is a perennial problem in heifers at grass at this time of year, particularly when the quality of grass is variable. If heifers receive poor quality food they’ll have low fertility.

Previous NADIS data suggest that the number and severity of scour problems is likely to get worse as autumn progresses.

Diagnosis of the cause of scour is difficult on signs alone, so it’s worth collecting samples early so that you can identify the cause and the best course of treatment and management as soon as possible.

Respiratory problems were at their normal low levels in August but some farms still had but there severe outbreaks.

Usually cases of respiratory disease are low in September, provided the weather remains relatively fair and the animals are not stressed from management or other changes. Now is a good time to plan your vaccination strategy for the coming winter.

New vaccines have come onto the market at the moment so discuss vaccination with your vet to ensure that you are using the best vaccine for your situation.

While every effort is made to ensure that the content of this forecast is accurate at the time of publication, NADIS cannot accept responsibility for errors or omissions. All information is general and will need to be adapted in the light of individual farm circumstances in consultation with your veterinary surgeon

Copyright © NADIS 2002

• To find out more
about lungworm, click here


If you want to know more about calf pneumonia  click here…



If you want to know more about New Forest Eye click here…

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