Don't cough up too much: correct diagnosis will save your wallet
In the past few weeks, we have seen a dramatic increase in the numbers of calves and cows coughing.
Lungworm is the most common cause. Increased stocking rates, heavier pasture burdens and tighter grazing rotations all become an issue at this time of year.
Treatment involves using an anti-parasitic product.
Young stock can be treated with a number of products but a zero-milk withdrawal wormer must be used in dairy cows.
If you have a comprehensive worm control plan drawn up in conjunction with your vet, this will help to minimise the risk of lungworm developing to a stage where coughing becomes an issue.
It is important not to jump to conclusions when we encounter a group of animals coughing. It is very easy to presume lungworm is the cause, dose the animals and move on.
However, there are a number of other causes of coughing. Viruses such as IBR, RSV and PI3 can all cause animals to cough in the early stages of infection.
Bacteria such as Mannheimia, Pasteurella and Histophilus can cause similar symptoms.
When we see how many potential causes of coughing exist, we realise how important it is to determine the agent involved before treatment begins.
Nasal swabs, lung washes, faecal samples, blood samples and bulk milk samples can all be used to determine the exact cause of coughing.
Similarly, if we treat without a confirmed diagnosis, not only do we run the risk of treating the incorrect cause, but we also delay treating the correct cause.
For example, if IBR is the underlying problem and we dose for worms, then the window of opportunity for early intervention is missed and the resulting morbidity and mortality could be very costly.
Also in this instance, the expensive zero milk-withdrawal wormer will have had no effect.
Regardless of what groups of animals are coughing, or how obvious the apparent cause may be, a quick call to your vet would be advised.
He/she may, based on a unique and in-depth knowledge of the health status of your herd, be able to give advice on the spot.
If a visit and some sampling are required, it is still a much cheaper option than diagnosing the incorrect cause and the subsequent economic impact that may have.
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