NADIS disease forecast – cattle (June)

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 bulletins 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.
Farmers are advised to discuss their individual farm circumstances with their veterinary surgeon.

June 2005

Richard Laven PhD BVetMed MRCVS

Most fertility problems decreased in June. In particular, the proportion of cows not seen bulling decreased and, provided the weather remains OK in July, this is likely to continue as the effects of turnout lessen. However, oestrus detection remains vital and it’s important to ensure that temporary staff employed during the holiday period can identify bulling cows.
However, this spring was a difficult time for many cows, so even  when the grass grows rapidly there will be some cows that will not be able to meet their requirements from grass alone. In particular cows that have had calving problems (the number of which has been relatively high this year) are going to need special attention to ensure that they produce their full yield potential without compromising their fertility.
Indeed calving is one area for potential problems in July. Calving problems in this month are often associated with oversized calves and overfat dry cows (the latter being particularly common when the season is good and rapid grass growth occurs. Checking the condition of your dry cows regularly can prevent overfat cows at calving. Fat cows don’t just have more difficult calvings. They are more prone to most diseases that occur in early lactation such as metritis, mastitis, and lameness, and they produce less milk. Much of this is due to fat deposition in the liver (“fatty liver”).
There have been reports this year of several farms with low bulk milk urea. In most cases this is because the f protein and energy in the grazed grass is well balanced. These low urea results are not leading to poor fertility or reduced production; so unless you have an obvious production problem don’t worry about low ureas.

June was a variable month weatherwise although relatively dry.. This has meant that the main lameness problems have continued at or below average as they have all year. The main problems to look out for are foul-in-the –foot if we get wet warm conditions and white line problems on farms where cattle have to walk considerable distances, particularly on stony tracks. The number of cases of digital dermatitis tend to decrease during the summer but outbreaks still occur. If you have more than the odd case of summer dermatitis get your vet to investigate so that you can identify the causes and get the number of cases down.

Metabolic disease

Milk fever is a common problem for cattle during the summer, particularly in the later part of the season. So far this year, milk fever levels have been 15% above average, so if you have cows drying off in July and August it’s time to look at prevention now. Milk fever is closely linked to dry cow management. It’s important to ensure that cows don’t gain condition during the dry period. If necessary, buffer feed dry cows as this will prevent cows gaining condition and allow you to control calcium intake.

Other metabolic diseases may be less important than milk fever but prevention is still important. Grass staggers is is less common in July and August but still kills a significant number of cows. Making sure that cows get enough magnesium every day will prevent grass staggers and also help reduce the number of cases of milk fever.

The number of displaced abomasums reported by NADIS vets so far this year has been slightly less than the record levels of last year, however, they there have still been more than twice as many cases this year than the average. The increase in cases has meant that the condition which was rare in the summer is now as common  as it used to be in the peak months of spring. Watch out for calving cows which do not perform to expectations and get them checked out by a vet as soon as possible. The sooner displaced abomasums are treated the quicker the cow will return to near normal production.


Cases of summer mastitis have been reported already this year (particularly in heifers) but July is usually the first month where a significant number of cases are seen so there is still time to get your control plan for summer mastitis in place.  Damp warm conditions will enhance the hatching and activity of the flies that spread the disease and unless preventive measures such as teat sealing or sealants, dry cow therapy, and insect control are soon started it may be too late.

Other Disease Problems

Last year the number of cases of lungworm were far higher than average in July. July is usually the first month of the summer rise. Using long-acting wormers in calves can reduce the risk of lungworm in treated stock, but the risk of lungworm in adults can be increased. The only truly effective prevention is vaccination, however too many farms have stopped vaccinating. On many farms this does not make economic sense, one case of adult lungworm can pay for 200 doses of vaccine.  

Growing Cattle
Calving problems remain a commonly reported problem in this age of cattle. This does suggest that either heifer management or choice of bulls used is suspect. Heifers with calving problems very often do not become economically productive and are culled. This is a waste of time, effort and money. Getting calving right gives the heifer the best chance of getting in the milking herd and staying there. If you are having calving problems with your heifers, veterinary advice can save you a significant amount of money
The outlook for parasites is relatively good, provided july remains dry, with moderate levels of disease expected. However proper grazing strategies will still be required to prevent disease.

If conditions continue as at present it will not be too long before fly nuisance will become a problem and, unless controlled, it will cause other problems such as summer mastitis and New Forest eye as well as less direct effects such as poor production and feed intake. So far, except for a blip earlier in the year, the number of cases of New Forest eye have been average with a steady increase since March. This disease is thus one to watch for this month. Early treatment  is essential, so check the eyes of youngstock at pasture at least once a day.

Bloat is another problem to watch out for if conditions suit the development of clover. Acidosis was seen in one suckler herd where yearling cattle had been out at grass all winter and then suddenly placed on an intensive feeding regime.  This resulted in many deaths.  

Most calf problems reduced in June, particularly enteritis. However, like last year, there has been a very high number of reports of coccidiosis. it is important to be on the lookout for this disease, particularly  in younger calves (3 to 4 weeks of age) as this disease seems to becoming more of a problem in this age group. To achieve effective control of coccidia, good management and hygiene is vital. This should include regularly moving feed and water troughs and preventing them from being contaminated with faeces.

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


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