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Parasite control at housing for first grazing beef and dairy animals

Tony O’Loughlin BVSc MRCVS, Molecare Veterinary Services


As we approach housing, it is time to evaluate your parasite control for the first season grazing stock. The parasites we can control at housing are…

Gut worms;


Liver Fluke;



With the current awareness of resistance to many Anthelmintic and Flukicide products, you should be targeting the problems on your farm and not just using a blanket approach. This means having a farm specific parasite control programme as part of your Herd Health Plan. This should be discussed and reviewed with your vet or the in-store SQP.

Assess your parasite burden

You can easily assess the parasite burden on your farm. Clinical signs associated with these parasites range from poor production and coughing through to scouring and scratching. A parasite burden may be one differential of this issue, but there can be other health or dietary issues. Hence, we advise to measure the parasite burden to confirm if that is the issue.

To get a more precise idea of the actual burden, you can do the following:

FEC – Faecal Egg Count determines the gut worm burden. Many farms now do this routinely through the grazing season so that they treat their stock at the correct time. We advise to collect fresh faeces from 10 animals, this can be collected from the ground. Use a teaspoon to collect the samples and place in a clean container.

Lungworm – We can test the FEC sample for lungworm and this takes 24 hours. This should be a differential diagnosis if there is any coughing present.

Liver Fluke – You can assess the burden on your farm from abattoir feedback from cull cows and finished cattle. If you do not get this feedback, please ask. We can test the FEC sample for evidence of Liver Fluke eggs and to do this we need at least 50 grams.

Lice and Mange – Some farms will have endemic Lice and Mange infections in their herds. These infections become apparent over housing when the cattle are closer together, as their winter coat grows, and so the parasites can spread. Again, you will know your herd status from clinical signs including itchiness, rubbing and hair loss.

Choosing the correct product

Once you have assessed your parasite burden, you are then in a position to choose the appropriate product(s) to treat your stock. Your vet or the local SQP will be able to guide you towards the correct treatment for your farm.

There are different classes of wormer and Flukicide products and you should be aware of this when you choose your treatment.

There are three classes of anthelmintic wormer for cattle – white, yellow and clear. The appropriate product should be chosen depending on what you aim to treat. You should also look to rotate the products used regularly. The clear group are the ML category that include the Avermectin products. These will have activity against lice and mange as well as gut and lung worms. They also have persistent activity against worms – but there is no need to use a wormer with persistent activity at housing, unless you are looking to treat lice or mange.

The Flukicide products have different levels against different ages of Fluke. The Triclabendazole products will treat immature fluke infections – down to 2 weeks. Other products will treat 8 to 10 week old fluke. Again, your vet or SQP will advise on product choice and also the timing of treatment in relation to the activity of the product.

Combination products are available to treat worms and fluke together. Care should be taken using these, as the Flukicide component will be treating a specific age of fluke as discussed.

Your vet and the in-store SQPs are a good source of information. The COWS (Control of Worms Sustainably) website is a good source of information, http://www.cattleparasites.org.uk/

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