Sharp rise in cow cough cases

Donal Murphy.
Donal Murphy.

The sharp increase in the number of cases of coughing in adult cows in recent years has been highlighted by Rathmore vet Donal Murphy (right) who was speaking at a meeting in Cork, organised by MSD Animal Health, on 'Coughing Cows – causes and prevention.

Donal, who runs the Sliabh Luachra Vets practice, has conducted extensive investigations into the causes of the problem and he revealed that, in some cases, even dust from feed can be a cause of severe coughing symptoms.

"The respiratory disease IBR (infectious bovine rhinotracheitis) is often blamed. However, on some farms the problem can be caused by respiratory viruses such as RSV and PI3. It was thought that these viruses only caused problems in calves but they are increasingly seen as a cause of respiratory disease in adult cows. Vaccines are available for the prevention of both of these viruses," said Donal.

He said another phenomenon called "Dusty Feed Rhinotracheitis" could also be a contributor. This is associated with excessive dust from feed, especially in the milking parlour, and can cause severe inflammation to the cow's windpipe. Improved ventilation or changing the ration can solve this problem.

Fergal Morris, veterinary adviser with MSD Animal Health, told the meeting that one of the most common causes of coughing, especially during the summer and autumn is actually hoose. There has been an increase of 75% in hoose cases in adult cows in the UK over the last 10 years and increases of the same scale have occurred in Ireland.

"This has been associated with overuse of long-acting wormers in the first and second grazing season that can leave first lactation heifers with no immunity to lungworm. The use of wormers is essential in the first grazing season, however, if cattle are treated continuously during the first and second grazing season, this may prevent immunity to lungworm from developing," he warned.

"Immunity to lungworm is more difficult to achieve than to gut worms and the use of a lungworm vaccine, in combination with anthelmintics, may be an effective way of maximising growth rates and also achieving immunity," he said.

He advised farmers with a problem with coughing cows to contact their vet who will investigate the cause of the problem and help to find the correct solution.