Forecast for increased risk of cattle disease

Harvest is drawing to a welcome conclusion and the weather is becoming more autumnal. Now is the time to turn thoughts to diseases that affect cattle.

The change in temperature and increase in rainfall means that fluke should be on our radars. The forecast is for a lot higher risk of fluke than last year. Even in the dry North East there is still a reasonable risk.

If you notice any signs of pneumonia in calves it is essential to treat them as soon as possible.

Things to look out for are weight loss, chronic scour and oedema under the chin. Diagnosis is simple. We can look for fluke eggs on faecal samples with reasonably accuracy, but multiple samples may be required. There is a laboratory test that can be run on blood, but this is more expensive and less simple.

For beef cattle treatment is easy. Use a flukicide containing triclabendazole at housing to kill all adult and immature fluke. If it is a particularly high risk winter then a second dose may be required eight weeks after the first.

Other diseases to keep a close eye on are respiratory problems. These are amongst the most costly problems for cattle farmers.

There are both viral and bacterial causes of pneumonia, most we are now able to vaccinate against. There are vaccinations for BRSV, IBR, BVD and PI3, which are all viral causes. We also have vaccinations against Pasturella, and Histophilus somni, but we do not have one against mycoplasma, which can cause severe outbreaks.

There are a number of ways that farmers can help to reduce the impact pneumonia has. Vaccination is the most obvious method and is highly effective. At housing try to reduce the stress impact on calves/beasts, any stressful procedures should be done either before housing or after six weeks. Lower stocking densities and increased ventilation of housing is important to help airflow, reducing the risk of exposure.

If you notice any signs of pneumonia in calves it is essential to treat them as soon as possible. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatories are necessary in the majority of cases and if a beast is showing severe signs, it is advisable to call us. We can use blood samples to try to distinguish the pathogen, but often the best way is unfortunately via a post-mortem.

If large numbers are affected, it is better to identify the exact cause as if it is a virus, rather than a bacterium, antibiotics can be unnecessary. Call your vet if you have any worries.

By Richard Flook, Vet.