During the winter period, ringworm can start raising its ugly head on animals that have been housed. Ringworm is caused by a fungus that can survive from year-to-year on shed walls, feeding barriers and gates.

The fungus can be spread rapidly from one animal to another. However, calves are more susceptible to ringworm as they have a weaker immune system.

Other underlying health issues – such as pneumonia or respiratory diseases – can also make an animal more susceptible, as their defence system is weak.

In addition, animals that are in poor body condition are also at risk from the fungal infection. Previously infected cattle are normally immune. However, older cattle can still be re-infected if they have decreased immunity from other health problems.

As cattle are housed tightly, ringworm can be easily spread from animal to animal when they come into contact.

Symptoms and treatment

The first signs of ringworm are indicated by hair loss. Following this, grey, dry, circular lesions are normally found around the eyes, head and neck.

Generally speaking, ringworm should heal itself without treatment. According to Teagasc, this will occur three-to-four months after infection – particularly when animals are turned out in the spring.

Despite this, quicker results can be achieved when outbreaks are treated early. This will reduce the risk of contaminating the housing environment, which could potentially lead to further infections down the line.

All animals should be treated – both animals showing signs of ringworm and those not showing signs of an infection.

Anti-fungal treatments, Teagasc says, include an in-feed additive – given daily for seven days – and liquids, which can be applied as a wash or spray. Power-washing and disinfection of housing will limit the carry-over of infection.

Practicing good hygiene when handling cattle can reduce the risk of infection. Humans, particularly children, are most likely to become infected by contact with infected animals.