We’re here to help with worm and fly control

As we head towards turnout, it is vital to have a parasite control plan in place for the upcoming grazing season.

Working with one of our Registered Animal Medicines Advisors (RAMA) to plan your strategy will help you make sure the correct medicines are used effectively and responsibly, helping to maximise production.

Parasitic gastroenteritis (PGE) is caused by gut worms and represents a threat to the health, welfare and production of livestock. It can lead to a loss of productivity in both the beef and the dairy industry, impacting on weight gain, carcass quality and milk production¹.

Broadly, there are two control options – strategic or therapeutic. The strategic method treats cattle for gut and lungworm in the early grazing season to reduce pasture burden and infection later.

This can be done at turnout with a long-acting product or repeated doses of a shorter acting product. With repeated doses it’s important to make sure the timing of the doses is correct as delays in treatment could lead to reduced productivity or potentially a lungworm outbreak.

For a therapeutic strategy, cattle should be closely monitored throughout the grazing season for any signs of a high worm burden. Ideally, young cattle should be regularly weighed and benchmarked against target growth rates for youngstock from grass.

Faecal egg counting can be used to assess the burden, allowing you to react and adjust treatments depending on risk factors like drought. Target the animals at risk, ensure they receive the correct dose by weighing each animal and check dosing equipment is calibrated.

And, whichever option is followed, it’s helpful to use the COWS best practice principles - www.cattleparasites.org.uk - for the most effective and responsible use of cattle wormers.

Flies also cause economic production losses in livestock. They reduce feed intake leading to reduced productivity, spread diseases and can damage hides. Their life cycles are completed very quickly, giving rise to very rapid population expansions, highlighting the need to apply fly control medicines early in the season, before the fly challenge is severe.

If treatment is delayed until there is a large fly population present, then it will be very difficult to control flies across the season. In cattle, treatment options include a long-acting ear tag which gives season-long fly control from a single tag, offering labour savings throughout the grazing season, or repeated use of spot on or pour-on treatments throughout the season.

There are a lot of options for both fly and worm control, so it’s important any decisions on product choice are made to suit you and your farm. Longer acting products may have a larger up-front cost but there is a reduced need to handle the cattle throughout the summer months, reducing labour spending and stress in the animals.

With season long control there is no risk treatments will be delayed or missed, which can help ensure cattle grow more efficiently. As well as considering treatment, it’s also important to think about practical steps, including mapping fields likely to have a high worm challenge and not grazing high risk animals like youngstock on them or keeping grazing cattle away from fly habitats like manure heaps.

Whatever options you choose, advanced planning is the way to maintain good animal health and maximise productivity from grassland.

Chat with your vet or animal health advisor at Mole Valley Farmers, or ideally both, to help you draw up an effective and practical summer health protection plan.

Reference: 1. Charlier et al. (2009) Veterinary parasitology 164, 70-79

For further advice or information contact your in-store Registered Animal Medicines Advisor (RAMA)