NADIS disease forecast – cattle (March)

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.

NADIS disease forecasts are written specifically for farmers, to increase awareness of prevalent conditions and promote disease prevention and control, in order to benefit animal health and welfare. The forecasts are based on national trends and farmers are advised to discuss their individual farm circumstances with their veterinary surgeon.

March 2005

Richard Laven BVetMed MRCVS




The number of fertility problems seen by NADIS vets this winter has been around average, but missed heats and ovarian cysts have both been seen more commonly than normal.

The underlying problem in most cases has been energy, with insufficient forage intake being the most common culprit. Silage quality has been reported by NADIS vets as being very variable across the country and within clamps on the same farms. Thus in the Southern area silages are variable and often associated with scouring.  In the Midlands it has been reported that the first cut was too dry and thus hard to consolidate which has resulted in mould development.  Some maize silages have also been visibly contaminated with fungus.

The reproductive system is exquisitely sensitive to a lack of energy, so poor and variable silage quality often firsts shows itself as cows with cysts, heats that are short and difficult to spot, and cows that don’t cycle at all. If you have these problems, check what your cows are eating and check its quality. In a fertility investigation, always check whether there’s an energy problem first, before spending time and money on investigating other problems particularly mineral deficiencies. This doesn’t mean that mineral problems don’t occur; in February one NADIS vet reported that poor fertility on one farm was associated with low energy levels as well as low iodine, and, in heifers, low selenium and copper. 


Overall lameness levels so far this winter have been around average.  The number of cases of foul-in the-foot has been higher than last year, suggesting that damp underfoot conditions have been a problem this year. Often poor conditions under foot with damp and poorly cleaned floors are increasing at this time of year and this is a good environment for allowing infectious problems such as digital dermatitis and foul of the foot to increase in incidence.  Most dairy cows will have at least two more months before turnout, it’s thus important to focus on foot health and hygiene to prevent lameness problems recurring. For farms where digital dermatitis is less of a problem this winter, now is the time to make the extra effort to reduce the disease to as low as possible before turnout. 


Mastitis cases treated by NADIS vets are around average at the moment with the high levels seen in January followed by a fall in February. NADIS vets are reporting continued increase in cell counts and cases of mastitis; with Staph aureus and Strep uberis being the most commonly reported problems. Both of these bacteria are spread at milking so checking your parlour regime and testing the milking machine should be a priority when you’re trying to prevent cell count and mastitis problems.

Metabolic disease

Unlike last winter the number of milk fever cases seen by NADIS vets has average suggesting that the relatively mild winter has meant that dry cow nutrition has been adequate. The last two years have seen a large rise in milk fever cases around turnout so it is worth planning your prevention strategy with your vet now.
DA cases continue at record levels, it is now more than three years since the increase in DAs began and yet there still has been no identification of why this rise has occurred. April is still the peak month, so if you’re getting or have had DA problems in the past pay close attention to your dry cows and try to minimise the changes that occur around the time of calving. If you get DAs try to identify them as soon as possible. The sooner you get the vet out the sooner the cow will return to normal production. So be on the look out for cows that are just not performing after calving, with poor appetites and lower than expected yield.

Other diseases

Look out for silage eye as March is the peak month for this very painful disease. It is usually associated with poorly fermented (often bag) silage.

Growing cattle

Non detection of oestrus and anoestrus  remained the main problem in this group of cattle. Like dry cows the nutrition and management of heifers often takes a back seat. Now is the time to make a positive effort to look at the heifers due for service in the spring, and ensure that nutrition is optimised and that any deficiencies are sorted before the bull is introduced or AI commenced. Ensure that even if you are making what you think are beneficial changes that any changes are made outside the critical period of two weeks before and two weeks after the start of mating.
Lameness levels remain high in this group. Preventing disease at this age produces a significant impact on disease in older cows, so heifer management should form a major part of any lameness control strategy.
Skin problems have been prominent in NADIS vet reports this winter with ringworm and lice being the most commonly reported. In most cases ringworm is not worth treating but lice can significantly debilitate cattle particularly youngstock so prompt treatment is valuable. As lice are often secondary to other diseases and deficiencies get the cattle fully checked if you have a lice problem.


The level of pneumonia seen this winter has been above average, with more outbreaks than last year. The damp and reasonably mild conditions which are likely to occur with approaching spring are likely to a see the persistence of pneumonia problems both of the acute and the chronic type.  Proper investigation of problems is the key to improving the future by producing management strategies, improving the environment and developing vaccination strategies. Getting bottles of antibiotic from the vet may control the pneumonia and limit the cost of the disease this time but it is not a long-term solution

Copyright © NADIS 2005

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

• 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 Calf Pneumonia click here…

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