Nursery paddocks are disease hotbeds
What a joy it is to walk out among a group of beef cattle grazing the autumn pasture. The herd should be flying fit after a long summer's grass and signs of ill-health and disease should be furthest from our mind. But unfortunately our cattle are never far from lurking diseases.
The usual suspects at grazing are fluke, stomach worms, lice and even coccidiosis. Fluke will have grown steadily over the summer unless we have an effective control programme in place. A fluke dose should be due or perhaps later as cattle head indoors, but beware of a one-off single fluke dose. Very few flukicides will kill all stages of the disease. Therefore a dose when entering the winter sheds will leave some younger immature fluke stages untouched.
These will grow and cause liver disease throughout the winter unless another dose is used several weeks later. That's why doing one dose now in mid-autumn can be effective. The next dose could then be given about four weeks after entering the sheds to allow the immature fluke to grow and be killed by the one winter dose.
However, never change your programme just because you read it in the paper. Consult your own home vet to see what suits your farm best.
The stomach worms are quite similar to the fluke and a dose now, followed by a dose a few weeks into the housing time, could work very well. The last thing any of us want is to be feeding parasites on the expensive winter feed intended for our cattle.
Lice are other little energy-sapping fellows that begin to build up from now and into the winter months. If not now, then lice dressing would be very prudent at the early weeks of winter housing. If cattle are rubbing backs and necks at this stage of the year then we need to do a lice treatment, one immediately and a repeat dose early after housing.
That brings us on to coccidiosis. This is a bug that has been building up on a lot of farms over the years. We think of it mainly as a winter disease associated with wet and dirty bedding. But vets are seeing them more and more in grazing groups. It is the young stock that show early signs of pasture coccidiosis. A runny dark scour and not-so-healthy coats in calves may be the start of it. Clinical diagnosis based on history and examination of the batch could be enough to confirm it. However, you cannot beat being absolutely sure, so a few faecal samples are a wise place to start. The regional veterinary labs are very prompt and accurate in giving us a definite positive or negative on our samples.
We find that later grazing of calves or even suckling mothers in paddocks near the yard become positive for coccidiosis. This is because these paddocks are like extended calving pens. They become the convenience holding area for all vulnerable stock. These include sick stock, recovering stock or, most commonly on suckler farms, a newly born calf and her dam.