Plan to vaccinate cattle against lungworm six weeks before turnout

Vaccination can help create herd immunity to lungworm, but the oral treatment has to be given twice, four weeks apart, with the latter dose given two weeks before turnout. This means farmers need to buy their vaccine now.

“The vaccine creates short-term immunity until longer-lasting cover can develop naturally by the cattle picking up lungworm larvae while grazing,” said Catherine McCarthy, who has recently completed a PhD on the epidemiology of lungworm at the University of Liverpool.

“First season grazing calves, cattle not previously vaccinated, bought-in cattle with unknown vaccination status, and cattle that have not been exposed to normal lungworm levels in their last grazing season, should all be considered for vaccination. It is also recommended that newly vaccinated cattle are placed onto lungworm contaminated pasture at turnout if possible. This will help boost immunity generated by the vaccine.”

Infection is caused by the lungworm parasite, which completes its lifecycle in the lungs of its host. The overall cost of an incident per adult dairy cow is conservatively estimated at £140, with reductions in milk yield of up to four litres a day.

Dr McCarthy added: “While preventative worm treatments have their place in practice, farmers should be thinking ahead and vaccinate for long-term control.

“It is best to speak to the vet or SQP for advice on farm-specific anthelmintic control plans. But it is good to remember that every time a farmer avoids using a wormer, it creates a good opportunity for cattle to create their own immunity.

“But it is worth remembering that vaccinating against lungworm gives no protection against gut worms and the risk assessment for these types of worms must be done separately.”

More information on lungworm control can be found om the Control of Worms Sustainably (COWS) website, which is located HERE.

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