Winter Beef series is in conjunction with Teagasc’s DairyBeef 500 Campaign.

Animal health is one of the key factors that underpins animal performance in dairy-beef systems and keeping cattle free from both internal and external parasites should be a priority for farmers.

Parasites can have a significant impact on animal performance, therefore it is imperative that stock are free from burdens to prevent any impact in performance over the costly indoor phase.

As the majority of dairy-beef stock are now indoors, this should dictate that they no longer pick up any internal parasites. Therefore it is a good time for farmers to start implementing their parasite control programmes.

Worms in cattle

Worms can be an issue in dairy calf-to-beef systems and especially in younger stock.

Stomach and gut worm levels can be monitored using dung sampling and if detected, dosing is recommended.

Likewise dung sampling a few weeks after treatment is good practice to ensure the product used gave an effective treatment.

When choosing a product, it is important that all stages of stomach worms are treated; if larvae are not treated, they can become dormant over the winter and then reappear as type II ostertagiosis in the spring. This can result in severe disease in animals.

Yellow drenches derived from the active ingredient levamisole are not effective in treating these larvae, whereas clear drenches (macrocyclic lactone) and certain white drenches (benzimidazoles) will provide effective treatment.

In the case of lungworm, monitoring for clinical signs such as a husky cough or difficult breathing is the best way to identify if there is an issue.

Heavy infestations can also lead to respiratory disease therefore a pre-housing treatment is also recommended to ensure animals are clean of any potential infestation before housing.

With regards to treatment and control most available anthelminthics are effective against larval and adult lungworms.

Levamisole and white drenches will effectively deal with parasites on the day of treatment but will not have a residual affect.

However Macrocyclic Lactones such as Ivermectins will give longer protection.

Liver Fluke

High levels of rainfall and mild temperatures this autumn have provided the ideal conditions for fluke to thrive in.

Farmers across the country now need to assess the situation on their farm and take action to deal with any potential future issues.

Lack of thrive, poor appetite and reduced weight gain are all ill effects of liver fluke infestations, therefore farmers need to act early to prevent any issue.

Farmers should be aware that once injested fluke start to feed and grow. It takes approximately 12 weeks for fluke to reach adult stage and at this point they will start to produce eggs.

These eggs pass out in the faeces of the animal and when conditions are suitable they hatch and use the mud snail to continue the life cycle.

During this twelve week period, the fluke are classified according to their stage of development:

First 5-6 weeks: Early immature fluke;
Weeks 6-10/11: Immature fluke;
Week 11 +: Adult fluke.

Faecal sampling can be used as an aid in monitoring liver fluke but, as eggs are only shed by mature fluke farmers need to be cautious not to delay action if there is an issue on their farm.

The Beef HealthCheck Programme, available on ICBF Herdplus, contains useful information of previous animals slaughtered on a farm and details issues that may have arisen.

Fluke treatment

There are a number of different flukicides on the markets, but certain products are only effective against certain stages.

Some of the flukicides on the market will only be effective against the adult stage which means that farmers should give careful thought on what product is needed and the timing of the treatment.

If farmers choose to use a product that only treats adult fluke, stock will need to be housed for at least 11 weeks to ensure an effective treatment.

In areas where burdens are high and farmers need to intervene quickly, triclabendazole-based products – which cover all three stages can be given a few weeks post housing. There is some known resistance to this product in certain parts of the county so caution is also advised.

In other cases, there are a number of products that also prove effective against mature and immature stages and these will give an effective treatment if administered six weeks after housing.

Farmers are advised that when they are selecting a product they should examine the product label to check the stages treated.

The table below outlined examples of active ingredients useful in the control of liver fluke in cattle and the stages treated:

Active IngredientLiver Fluke stageLiver Fluke stageLiver Fluke stage
IngredientEarly immatureImmatureMature

Outlining his treatment plan for the winter Clare farmer and DairyBeef 500 participant Michael Culhane, highlighted the particularly wet end to the year in the region.

He also pointed to the fact that some animals were grazing heavier parts of the farm and as a result he decided a fluke dose was necessary.

The table below shows the dosing plan for Michael Culhanes’ weanlings and stores:

ParasiteActive IngredientDeliveryWithdrawalCost per 50 kgWeeks Post Housing
Fluke:TriclabendazoleOral56 days€0.133 weeks
Worms:IvermectinInjection49 days€0.073 weeks

All animals that are for slaughter next spring and weanlings will be treated with a Triclabendazole-based product post housing to target all stages of fluke and that shorter keep finishing animals with withdrawal dates in mind would be treated Albendazole-based product.

Rumen Fluke

Rumen fluke is generally not a severe an issue in dairy-beef systems. In faecal tests, the majority of animals may show low levels of rumen fluke present, but treatment is not required unless clinical signs such as scouring and weight loss are evident.

Oxyclozanide-based products are the only drug effective in the treatment of rumen fluke, therefore correct use is required to prevent resistance issues.

External parasites

The recent unseasonably high temperatures for the time of year have created a perfect environment for external parasites such as lice and mites to prevail.

These lice and mites become a problem at farm level when animals experience discomfort and start scratching to try get some relief.

Early treatment is critical to ensure no impact on animal welfare and performance.

DairyBeef 500 participant based in Donegal, Gareth Peoples, has also detailed his plan to deal with external parasites.

He said all animals on the farm will have their backs and tails clipped because by clipping the hair on the top of the animal it removes the shelter area for lice to hide.

In addition to this if using a pour on product, it will allow for a close skin contact treatment. An ivermectin injectable product will be used to kill any lingering worms in animals, but will also target the lice and mites.

A follow up treatment of deltamethrin-based pour on product will be applied after two weeks and animals will be monitored and treated as required.

When treating for lice Gareth always makes sure to treat the entire shed to prevent any re-infestation from untreated animals.