- Lungworm (or Husk) is caused by the parasitic worm Dictyocaulus viviparous which can infect cattle of all ages and breeds which have not been able to build immunity through natural exposure or vaccination.
- Lungworm is now well established on grazing land across the UK which means that planning lungworm control strategies against this widespread disease is important for all farmers.
- Outbreaks of lungworm can be unpredictable and so vaccination before turnout protects a herd from walking into a potential minefield.
- Lungworm outbreaks are seasonal with the highest percentage of diagnoses being reported in late summer and autumn.
- Reduced growth rates
- Loss of appetite
- Reduced milk yields
- Increased risk of pneumonia/ bronchitis (coughing/ open mouth breathing
The economic impact of this has been calculated at £50-£100 per beef cow and £140 per dairy cow.
Cattle can produce an immune response to lungworm larvae and adult worms. This immunity can wane after a few months unless cattle are exposed to low-level contamination on the pasture.
Vaccination is the most predictable method of building herd immunity to protect against lungworm.
Cattle can be vaccinated for lungworm by giving an oral vaccine (2 doses 4 weeks apart) containing irradiated lungworm larvae (L3) which stimulate immunity. Cattle need to be turned out onto low level infected pasture no sooner than 2 weeks after completing the vaccination course which allows them to boost their immunity naturally.
Vaccination provides a solid base of immunity at the start of the season, which is maintained in a controlled way through grazing low-level contaminated pasture.
If you would like to discuss your lungworm strategy on your farm, please get in touch and one of our vets will be happy to help!