NADIS disease forecast – cattle (November)

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.

November 2004

Richard Laven BVetMed MRCVS


NADIS Cattle Disease Forecast

Adult cattle

As happened last year, one of the most important trends in fertility last month was a continued increase in the number of cases of cystic ovaries, which was also associated with a continued high level of cows not cycling (anoestrus).

This is likely to continue into November and December and suggests that many cows are struggling to produce milk and still return to oestrus and that many are not managing it.

Both of these problems are picked up in the same way, as the sign most commonly associated with cysts is failure to show heat.

Set a target date by which all cows should have been seen in oestrus and get your vet to check those that you haven’t seen bulling by that date. The earlier you can identify these cows, the earlier they will be treated and the less each case will cost.

If you monitor all your cows you can also identify a herd problem and put in place corrective measures such as increased energy provision. Regular condition scoring can also be a useful early warning device, as large losses in early lactation will mean problems with fertility later.


The variable weather across the country has meant that in some areas cows have been able to stay out for much of October. This has resulted in a levelling off in the number of lameness cases, particularly digital dermatitis, however the winter season is now upon us and lameness needs to be acted on to prevent to problems becoming more severe.

Even if your cows are housed now it’s still not too late to get preventive regimes underway such as foot trimming and footbathing. Recent work in Sweden has clearly shown that twice-yearly foot trimming (done by a trained professional) can significantly reduce lameness when compared to once a year treatment.

Footbathing is another part of most good foot health programme. Time spent now on such programmes now will save time and money spent treating lame cows later in the winter.


The level of environmental mastitis has been above average so far this year, probably because of the very wet summer. The housing period is the period of peak risk for environmental mastitis: so get your calving areas as clean as possible, use sufficient good quality bedding and ensure  that there is sufficient working drainage.

Remember that for cattle outdoors, feeding areas, drinking areas and collecting yards are all areas of high risk for environmental mastitis.



Metabolic disease
Milk fever cases were extremely high in October, with most cases being seen in cattle outdoors being kept on wet green pasture.

This is the worst type of pasture for dry cows because as well as having low magnesium and relatively high calcium its nutritional value is very limited, making the change to a milking cow diet a very major one, leading to all sorts of metabolic and energy problems in freshly calved cows. Supplementary feeding is the best preventative as the cows then will be eating what you want them to have rather than what nature has provided

Grass staggers (hypomagnesaemia) was less common in October than milk fever. However if you are keeping late pregnant cows outside it will still be a significant problem. In most cases prevention is cheap and effective so on most farms such problems should be able to be minimised.

Abomasal problems are now common all year round, with levels in the winter months, which used to be low being higher than the peak months of previous years. If you’ve had problems in the past try to identify the trigger factors, particularly diet, that are responsible.  

Other diseases
Liver fluke problems are still commonly being recorded in fluke areas. In such areas cases are likely to occur well into the winter, with the peak occurrence later in the winter than last year. 

A winter housing dose is essential to prevent problems. In fluke areas plan for a spring dose with a wormer that kills adult fluke only. This will prevent disease and reduce the risk of resistant flukes.

Lungworm is still a major disease with several herds showing major infections. A lot of problems have been seen on farms that have recently ceased vaccination.

Late autumn is a high-risk period for plant poisonings, particularly acorn poisoning. As the autumn continues, particularly if there are strong winds and gales, these problems are likely to increase.

Growing Cattle
Recent work has shown how much impact lice and other skin parasites can have on growing cattle. Effective treatment and prevention is available, and if used properly will save you money. Plan your ectoparasite control now

The variable autumn means that the risk of parasites problems is moderate in most areas. If you are using a housing worming dose it is worth checking after treatment to ensure that the wormer has been effective

The number of calving problems was high last month in this group of cattle. In many cases this was because heifers got too fat during late pregnancy. Regular condition scoring can identify problems before they occur

The number of New Forest Eye cases remained high last month, and if the mild wet weather continues it may remain a problem in November. November is also the time of year when the number of cases of bovine iritis starts rising. Regular examination and early treatment is essential.

Many pregnant youngstock are housed in November. If they are going to be housed in cubicles after calving try and get them used to concrete now so that when they calve down the foot doesn’t have to adapt to concrete at the same time that the rest of the heifer is adapting to being in the milking herd for the first time. If you can do this you will significantly reduce the levels of lameness in your herd.

The number of pneumonia cases increased last month, no one disease was noted as being a primary cause though. November usually sees a significant increase in pneumonia cases.

If you have had problems in the past vaccines are extremely helpful in controlling disease particularly over the short to medium term. Ask your vet which vaccine would suit you best,

Coccidiosis was one of the commoner causes of scour, this has recently been diagnosed in very young calves so this disease may become even more important in the future. Hygiene is the key to preventing this disease. If possible go for an all-in, all-out policy for housed calves

As in growing cattle, New Forest Eye has been a problem in youngstock as well. Regular examination and early treatment is essential.


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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