Keep on Top of Parasites at Turn-out

UK - As the time for turn-out approaches, leading animal health company Merial is urging farmers to keep on top of parasite control to help maximise productivity.
calendar icon 8 April 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

“Most farmers recognise that the housing period provides an ideal opportunity to administer a number of treatments, but parasite control is just as important whilst the animals are at grass,” said Merial Veterinary Advisor, Fiona MacGillivray.

In the UK dairy sector, Merial’s research has shown that more than 90% of herds are carrying a high gutworm burden. This information comes from the testing of hundreds of herds, throughout 2008 and 2009, for gutworm antibody levels.

Ms MacGillivray said: “Many dairy farmers don’t believe that gutworm burdens are a problem, as they cause no obvious clinical effects in adult cows. However, there is an abundance of independent research involving over 5,000 dairy cows which clearly shows that worming cows with Eprinex® improves both their milk production and their fertility.”

Research shows that treatment with Eprinex® can improve milk productivity by up to two litres per cow per day. It also shows that treated cows eat more, increasing dry matter intake by up to 1kg per cow per day.

Maximising feed intake in newly calved cows is essential to try and minimise the impact of the ‘energy gap’, which occurs as a result of the increased energy demands for milk production. By increasing the dry matter intake at this critical time after calving, the energy gap can be effectively managed so that body condition changes are minimal, thus improving fertility and increasing milk production throughout that lactation. Merial’s Eprinex® is the only product which has a zero milk withdrawal for lactating dairy cows and therefore is suitable for worming the dairy herd at any stage of lactation.

Beef farmers should consider a treatment for liver fluke to tie in with their worming regime at grass. Treating for fluke at grass can help to break the life-cycle of the parasite and may also improve cattle growth rates.

An ‘at grass’ fluke treatment will help to reduce fluke eggs shed onto the pasture in the spring and summer, and reduce the subsequent risk of winter disease in cattle. An ‘at grass’ treatment may also contribute to improved growth rates and enable farmers to maximise their animals’ growth from grass – which is their most cost-effective form of feed. In fact, cattle treated against fluke at grass have been shown to achieve 31% better weight gain compared to untreated animals, and 8% compared to cattle that were only wormed.

In terms of treatment timing, cattle can start to pick up infective fluke cysts as soon as they are turned out to grass, and because it takes approximately 10 to 12 weeks for these infective cysts to become adult egg-laying fluke, treatment should be administered 10 to 12 weeks after turnout to minimize fluke eggs reaching the pasture. However, in some cases, from a practical management perspective, treatment may be advisable eight weeks after turnout to tie in with the worming regime on farm. Therefore, the general advice would be to treat 8 to10 weeks after turnout or exposure to infection.

For treatment farmers can choose to use a straight fluke product such as Trodax® alongside an existing worm treatment. Alternatively they can use a combination endectocide product such as Ivomec® Super, which as well as killing fluke also has the advantage of killing external parasites and providing persistent protection against roundworms, so in effect can be used instead of a straight worm treatment. Both Trodax® and Ivomec® Super have been successfully used on farm for more than 20 years and neither is affected by rainfall, which is obviously very important considering our increasingly wet summers!

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