NADIS disease forecast – cattle (October)

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.

October 2004

Richard Laven BVetMed MRCVS


NADIS Cattle Disease Forecast

Adult cattle

September was a relatively good month for grass growth, however the quality of such forage can be very variable.

This in combination with the coming change to winter rations is likely to mean that many animals will be under stress in the next few months, which is likely to lead to a rapid rise in problems.

As soon as your cows are used to the winter ration check their condition score, and ensure that they’re producing what the diet calculations say they should.

If they’re not a metabolic profile can identify the areas where nutrition is lacking. Acting early will prevent future problems.
Calving problems and whites were all around the average in September, despite the relatively good weather in most areas.

October usually sees an increase in both of these of around 25%, so plan now to prevent problems occurring. Uterine torsions have been much more common this year than average.

It’s important to spot such cases as soon as possible as early veterinary intervention significantly increases the chances of a live calf and a live cow.


Now is a good time to get the vet in to pregnancy diagnose suckler cows as the costs of keeping barren cows rise considerably in the winter period.

Despite the wet August and the damp September, the levels of lameness in September were average, probably because the number of cases of white line disease and solar ulcer has been lower this year than normal.

Now is the time to get your cows’ feet right before housing. Check and trim your adult cows and start your winter control programme for digital dermatitis. 

Plan a daily footbath regime of copper sulphate, formalin or similar product for at least two weeks. This will treat many of the cows with active lesions and may also eliminate the infection in ‘carrier’ cows that are not showing disease.

At the end of the two-week daily footbathing period check the digital dermatitis on your farm and decide with your vet on the best control programme for your farm this winter.

The number of summer mastitis cases seen in September was 75% down on the previous month. It is therefore unlikely that summer mastitis will remain a problem this month.

However, this month is likely to see the start of significant rise in the number of toxic mastitis cases, with the winter period being the highest risk period for this disease. If you’ve had problems before ask your vet about vaccinating.


Cell count problems are widespread but in many herds it seems that the present price of milk means that in many cases nothing is being done about it. As Staph. aureus seems to becoming more common, this may be false economy.

Waiting until cell counts are near penalty levels allows the bacteria time to spread between cows so that when treatment is started far more cows are more affected and the problem is that much harder to get rid of.

Metabolic disease
October is a peak month for many metabolic diseases, particularly milk fever and hypomagnesaemia. The levels of both these diseases were higher than normal in September, which suggest October could be a very bad month.


In most cases, milk fever problems are associated with dry cows being left at grass, but poorly balanced dry cow diets can cause just as bad a problem. Get your vet involved in planning your dry cow strategy
Grass staggers is just as important in October as it is in May. This year the high moisture content of grass will mean that many cows and heifers who are receiving this as the mainstay of their diet are likely to have low blood magnesium unless some form of mineral supplementation is being given. 

If this does not occur serum magnesium levels can go down to extremely low levels before signs develop and often they are even more difficult to treat than the spring cases. 

Low magnesium intake is also a major factor in the development of milk fever. Discuss with your vet the best method of magnesium supplementation. 


Other Disease Problems
Husk was common in September, particularly in adult cattle, and this is likely to continue into October. 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.

The number of liver fluke problems has continued to increase. In traditional fluke areas, despite the relatively dry summer, the relatively wet August and September has significantly increased the risk of disease. Plan your treatment strategy with your vet now.

New Forest eye has remained a significant problem in some dairy herds, in all ages of animals. The cooler weather is likely to reduce fly activity, but it is likely to remain a significant problem on particular farms.

Check dry cows and heifers regularly. New Forest eye can be simple to treat when picked up at an early stage, but delayed treatment can result in severe problems and a significantly reduced response to treatment. Silage eye has also remained a significant problem this year.

Ensure that you only feed good quality bagged silage, unless you have a very extensive feeding system.

Early reports suggest that the number of cases of fog fever seen in September were high. Check your grazing programme, to make sure that you’re not turning cattle onto potentially dangerous pastures.

Calving problems were less common than average in September. Most problems were the result of too fat heifers with fat in the birth canal restricting the size of calf that can be passed easily.

It is most important to remember that at this time of year a grass diet will be insufficient to allow both growth and increase in weight. 

It is thus important to ensure that some other feed is also offered. If any of the heifers are soon to be served, it is important to remember not to make changes in their management for six weeks before serving to six weeks afterwards. 

Such animals are best housed now to minimise the stresses caused by management changes.

As with the adult cattle, New Forest eye and husk are causing more problems than usual. These problems are likely to increase over the next month.

Other problems were seen at relatively low levels but October is likely to see a rise in respiratory problems other than husk. Early identification of the cause of such problems can pay dividends over the winter period.


The low calf numbers currently present on most farms helped ensure that there were only a few diarrhoea problems.

Overall the number of pneumonia outbreaks was low, though several farms had severe outbreaks of acute pneumonia.  

Now is the time to check your housing and see if there any short term improvements. Vaccination with appropriate vaccines should also improve matters. 

As with all the other age groups New Forest eye was common.  Early identification and treatment is vital.


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

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