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Lungworm another challenging summer ahead on some farms

If you asked me in 2019 what was one of the significant summer health challenges, I would have found lungworm probably at the top of that list. This parasite continues to cause problems in a lot of Irish farms.

I worked on building an awareness campaign around lungworm in March with MSD animal health. In this article, there are four videos we created to help people understand some of the risks and also options around control.

In the last week, I’ve already seen an increase in cases of coughing where lungworm is a substantial differential. With the long dry spell, the risk for lungworm was low. With rain comes the flushing of lungworm larvae, and the potential risk of infection increases.

A straightforward rule with lungworm and most parasites is if its good weather for grass growth its good weather for parasites.

With lungworm being unpredictable, we must work hard to understand these risks, and some farms need to think about altering their control programs.

Click on the youtube links in the article to watch each of the videos.

Video 1 (The background) click here 

In this video, I look at some of the reasons why lungworm has become a challenge on Irish farms. One issue we are seeing is adult dairy cows and coughing associated with this parasite.

Some of the challenges are

  • Milder wet summers
  • Grazing strategies which allow the larval build-up
  • Overdosing young stock and poorer immunity developing

Video 2  (The lifecycle) click here 

The source for infections in our herds can be larvae overwintering larvae on pasture or carrier cows. This allows larvae to begin the cycle again when conditions are favorable, like we currently see on many farms.

In the video above, I talk about the lifecycle. We must understand this when we are looking to understand the risks around lungworm. It means over the coming weeks on our farms we need to be vigilant for clinical signs like coughing.

Video 3 (clinical signs/ diagnostics) click here

With lungworm, we also should never make presumptions about coughing cows. We need to be mindful that there are several other viruses and bacteria that can cause clinical symptoms of pneumonia and coughing. These cases can cause significant economic losses and should be investigated with your vet. In the video above, I talk about lung washes as part of this potential work up.

Video 4 (Control strategies) click here 

Like all parasites, we use anthelmintics to treat lungworm in our herds. We should never ignore coughing and act fast to treat cases over the coming weeks when they occur. With lactating dairy cows, we do face a challenge. There is only one licensed product available for treatment (Eprinomectin). With some farms now heavily reliant on this, we are dosing cows several times over the summer months. These herds must look at new ways to control lungworm.

One part of a control program in these herds I have found useful is lungworm vaccination.

A protocol I have found useful is to set up a standard worming protocol in the 1st grazers (calves) along with good grazing management. This should incorporate regular monitoring of weights and FECs for other roundworms. I was then using the vaccine to stimulate immunity in 2nd grazers and 1st lactation animals at housing time.

Talk to your vet about using lungworm vaccination and building a more robust control plan.

Vaccination case study (farm visit) with vet Sean O Neill 

My advice for farmers struggling with lungworm is taking control of immunity through vaccination is now an option they need to consider

 

Happy, safe farming

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