Vet Viewpoint: Advice on fluke in sheep and cattle lameness

Farmers are being warned there will likely be a hangover of fluke from last year and not to delay treating sheep. 

Our Vet Viewpoint vets say high worm burdens are also causing pasteurellosis in lambs and are urging farmers to vaccinate or treat cases promptly. 

Meanwhile, dairy farmers are given advice on controlling lameness now that cows are housed.

Nich Roper,

Torch Farm Vets, South Molton, Devon

In these dark days it is easy to focus on the daily grind of the now, and invest less in what comes tomorrow.

But calves that grow well pay back your efforts later when they reach maturity earlier, and for replacements are more productive and live longer.

See also: Q&A: Advice for genomic testing calves

So get calves off to the best start in the best environment by monitoring their colostrum status, then tracking their growth.

This puts you in a position of power to prevent avoidable losses.

Not all milk replacers are the same, and there has been quite a bit of work around optimising intakes. It is never too late to challenge what you do and ask if there is a better way.

There is the added incentive at present of taking up the opportunity of making sure that BVD is not being a destructive force, limiting your calves’ potential. Freedom from BVD is within our grasp. It is a good time to ‘Stamp BVD Out’.

Neil Laing

Clyde Vet Group, Lanark, Lanarkshire

Like most of the UK, we in Lanarkshire had a very kind back end of the year, with most cattle staying out for longer, and more grass for tupping sheep than we had had for a while.

However, we are advising clients that liver fluke will still be an issue. There will be a hangover from last winter, and this season will just be delayed. So there will be a risk right into January, which is not the norm up here.

Strategic dosing of pregnant ewes in mid-winter will still be necessary.

Forage quality should be better than average, although supply might be down due to the dry summer. However, with bought-in feed costs continuing to rise for the winter and spring season, it must be cost-effective to get fodder analysed, no matter what class of stock it will be fed to.

It could be feasible to substitute concentrate feeding with forage, certainly for early and mid-pregnancy in both suckler cows and ewes. Hopefully early health and nutritional planning can head off any potential problems at calving and/or lambing time.

Hannah Prestwood

Tyndale Vets, Dursley, Gloucestershire

Last month I carried out numerous post-mortem examinations on lambs that had died suddenly.

High worm burdens were a common problem last season with sky-high worm egg counts being recorded, and an infestation of worms in the small intestine of many post-mortem examinations.

However, pasteurellosis was diagnosed in many. Literature states dullness and increased respiratory rates, but the majority of farmers see no signs before death, as the disease occurs so rapidly.

Post-mortem examinations are invaluable as lungs will classically show consolidation at the top of the lung, presenting as a darker section of lung.

Specific antibiotics can be given to treat the infection and protect the rest of the flock if pasteurellosis is diagnosed. Vaccination is available and will prevent the disease in your group of lambs, so this may be worth discussing with your vet to protect your flock. 

Chris Watton

Farm Vet Solutions, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire

With housing now upon us, the threat of digital dermatitis is increasing. It is very contagious, causing erosion of the heel bulbs, between the digits and around the coronary band.

A two-pronged management approach can be implemented to minimise the risk of outbreaks and halt the associated production losses.

  1. Manage the housing environment: Deep slurry and wet conditions make the perfect environment for the bacteria to survive. So scrape passageways/feed fences daily and provide deep clean beds to improve foot hygiene by keeping them clean and dry, and reduce the spread and redevelopment of digital dermatitis.
  2. Appropriate treatment: regular foot disinfection of all cattle using footbaths containing copper/zinc sulphate, organic acid preparations or formalin, coupled with topical application of antibiotic sprays to infected cattle, have all been shown to treat the reservoir and reduce transmission and redevelopment.