Get On Top Of Parasites At Housing

For many dairy farmers, housing is an important time for parasite control. Merial Animal Health’s Veterinary Adviser Fiona MacGillivray agrees that there are practical and economic reasons why it makes sense to think about herd health at this time of the year, in particular controlling parasites.
calendar icon 10 September 2011
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“It’s a convenient time to treat your dairy cows and youngstock, but it can also save you money in the long-term,” she says.

“Given the current high cost of feed, you will want to ensure that your herd is in the best possible condition to benefit from their nutrition. Parasites such as gutworm and liver fluke can have an adverse effect on growth and milk production. Furthermore dealing with them at housing can help to reduce pasture contamination when the herd is turned out the following spring.”

For dairy cows using a pour-on solution that treats gutworms and lungworms as well as external parasites is cost-effective. Research has shown that gutworm can reduce milk production by as much two litres per cow per day1. Given that it is estimated that 93 per cent of the UK herd is currently suffering from a high gutworm burden, the cost to the industry could be considerable.

One farmer who believes that it is important to treat his herd at housing is Maurice Jones. Maurice from Welshpool has three dairy units milking around 1,000 cows. He says: “We treat the cows about a fortnight after they have been housed for the winter. We have noticed that they are fitter and their coats are nicer. Also the milk production has been better. I would certainly recommend routinely worming on an annual basis.”

Paul White is a tenant farmer at Wonwell Court Farm in Kingston, Devon with around a 100 dairy cows. He treats his whole herd at housing, having discovered the benefits of treating first-calved heifers around seven years ago.

He says:”We saw a big difference with the heifers, and so we decided to use Eprinex® on the whole herd. Now we treat all the cattle at housing time every year."

“We always used to be pleased if the best heifer did 6000 litres per year, but now our top heifer produced 10,800 litres; the heifers are averaging well over 7000 litres; and the whole herd is averaging over 8000. We have seen an overall improvement in the condition of the cows, and the heifers are definitely getting in calf quicker. We have also seen an improvement in the longevity of the herd, and we are now averaging around six lactations a cow.”

Treating youngstock at housing is part of a regime for controlling liver fluke in the dairy herd – along with the treatment of dairy cows at drying out. There is considerable evidence that liver fluke is becoming more prevalent, not just in traditional areas such as Wales and the west of England, but increasingly in the east as well.

Fluke infestation depresses appetite and consequently decreases weight gain. In one study healthy cattle consumed over 10 per cent more feed per day than animals infected with fluke. It has a negative impact on the reproductive efficacy of dairy heifers, and a study has shown that age to first oestrus can be delayed by 39 days in infected animals. Fluke can cause sufficient damage to the liver to impair the body’s ability to convert feed into body mass. Milk production in infected animals can drop by as much as eight per cent.

Philip Reed is a dairy farmer based in Cardigan, Wales who farms around 700 acres and milks 450 cows with around 450 followers. He knows that fluke can be a real problem in west Wales and his strategy for dealing with it includes using an injectable combined flukicide and wormer containing ivermectin and clorsulon on his young stock and on the dairy cows at drying off.

Mr Reed says: “I use it on the cattle when I house them and then again when we turn them out in the spring. You can virtually see the difference with the calves after we have used it. They have shiny coats and they look a lot healthier. With the dairy cows we use this product at drying off and then come the spring time we give them a zero milk withdrawal pour-on eprinomectin solution (Eprinex®)."

“We have used this regime for the last six years and work on the principle that if it works we don’t change it. We farm on heavy land, where there could be a problem with fluke, but following this regime has ensured that it isn’t an issue. Not only does it deal with fluke, it also treats the worms and external parasites at the same time.”

This is also a good time to be thinking about calf pneumonia and ways of preventing it. Fiona MacGillivray says: “Calf pneumonia is one of the primary diseases affecting young cattle. It is often a group problem, and particularly affects housed calves. There are a number of factors involved; these include the interaction of various infectious organisms, the level of immunity of the calf, and environmental factors. However, there are a number of steps that farmers can take to ensure that they reduce the risk.”

Good housing management is critical to pneumonia prevention. Ventilation should be sufficient and appropriate to all weather conditions to ensure good air flow through the building. However, draughts should be prevented as they can also make calves prone to disease. Regular cleaning and good hygiene will ensure that bedding and floors remain dry, and infectious organisms are less likely to multiply and survive. It is also important to ensure that drainage is kept clear and clean. Avoiding the overstocking of animals and mixing cattle of different age groups will also help prevent disease.

“Generally older animals are more likely to have been exposed to pneumonia bugs, and they will have developed immunity against them. However, they still carry the bugs, and can pass them onto the younger cattle that do not have the same immunity.”

Anything that causes the animals stress can also increase the likelihood of it contracting pneumonia. The timing of stressful procedures such as disbudding, weaning, castration etc, should therefore be considered carefully. In some circumstances, vaccination can play an important role in preventing or treating calf pneumonia. In the latter case, sick animals should be isolated immediately that they are identified. Fast and effective treatment is critical to minimising any potential lung damage, and ensuring a speedy recovery. Following infection, lungs can take seven to 10 days to repair so a long lasting antibiotic to prevent reinfection during this period is also very important.

ZACTRAN® is designed specifically for the treatment and prevention of pneumonia in cattle. It concentrates in the lungs to fight the infection and is fast-acting, getting to work in just 30 minutes. Its 15 day long-lasting action also helps prevent reinfection during the critical lung repair phase and requiring only a single shot reduces handling, and, therefore, additional stress to the animals.

September 2011

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