Farm Ireland

Saturday 20 January 2018

Why it’s important to house your cattle with a ‘clean set of lungs’

Optimal housing conditions are key to the control of virus pneumonia
Optimal housing conditions are key to the control of virus pneumonia


When it comes to parasite control at housing it is worth considering a Pre-Housing Dose (PHD).

A PHD is highly practical and offers your cattle both significant production and health benefits.

Lungworm or hoose is probably the most significant parasite for Irish cattle being housed in the autumn.  Not only do adult lungworm cause irritation and obstruct the airways, the immature stages (larvae) damage the lung tissue while migrating through it before reaching the airways.

This causes the lungs to function less efficiently and makes them more prone to invasion by other bugs like viruses and bacteria. The larvae and adult lungworms are killed and removed quickly after dosing but it can take two to three weeks for the lung tissue to heal afterwards.

This is where the PHD comes in; would it not be better to treat lungworm infections while the weanlings are still at grass, in a healthy outside environment, to allow healing to occur without the challenges of dust and viruses etc? 

This does not mean more doses because there are wormers that have a persistent effect against both lungworm and stomach worms.

What wormers qualify to be used as PHDs?

  • Cydectin Pour On,
  • Cydectin 1% Injection,
  • Cydectin TriclaMox Pour On
  • Both Dectomax injection and Pour-On

All have at least five weeks persistent activity against both lungworms and stomach worms. 

Also Read

As a result, cattle which receive a PHD with a Cydectin or Dectomax product and are dosed within five weeks of housing, do not require another worm dose at housing

4 key advantages of a PHD/ Pre-Housing Dose;

  1. Cattle are housed with a “clean set of lungs”, free of lungworm and recovered from the damage that the worms had caused.
  2. This means animals are healthier and better able to fight off the challenges of viral pneumonia at housing.
  3. Cattle will perform better for the last few weeks at grass as they will be worm free and as a result will have better appetites and better daily live weight gain.
  4. Cattle can be vaccinated against viral pneumonia at the same time as receiving their PHD, giving the vaccines time to stimulate good protection against viral pneumonia before the animals are challenged at housing time.

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Cattle that receive a PHD with either a Cydectin or Dectomax product within five weeks of housing DO NOT need a dose for worms at housing.

Discuss with your veterinary practitioner if further fluke treatment is required after housing, as this depends on local conditions.  

How to control virus pneumonia on your farm?

Housing conditions

Optimal housing conditions are key to the control of virus pneumonia. Clean dry housing with adequate ventilation is essential to reduce the build of disease in the sheds.

The rule of thumb is that the air inlet areas along the side walls of the shed should be at least twice the air outlet area in the roof, which allows clean air to enter the shed and stale air to be drawn out, like an open chimney. The minimum air outlet for adult cattle is 0.1m per head.


Vaccination for virus pneumonia should be considered as an aid in preventing and controlling virus pneumonia.

Ideally vaccines should be used before the period of highest stress so protection is in place before the challenge. In addition all animals in the same airspace should be vaccinated.

Which virus?

There are many viruses that contribute to the virus pneumonia disease complex but RSV and Pi3 are recognised as the most common viruses affecting Irish weanlings every autumn (Central Veterinary Laboratory surveillance data).

Fortunately there are vaccines available to protect against these two key viruses.

Summary of RSV +Pi3 vaccine available in Ireland:

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Live vaccines contain a modified attenuated strain of the virus that does not cause disease but mimics the natural infection so the animal can mount a fast and effective immune response to a single dose of the vaccine.

Inactivated (dead) vaccines contain a killed strain of the virus and require two doses: one to prime the immune system of the animal and a second to boost the immune system in order to provide effective protection.

Discussion with you vet is important to develop a suitable vaccination programme for your cattle this winter.

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