Farmer survey aims to help researchers learn about lungworm outbreaks

Farmers and vets are needed to help COWS understand the lungworm picture across the UK
Farmers and vets are needed to help COWS understand the lungworm picture across the UK

A survey has launched for cattle farmers and vets to help researchers find out more about lungworm and its treatment across the UK.

Through the survey, the Control of Worms Sustainably (COWS) group hopes to learn more about when outbreaks of lungworm are occurring.

It also seeks to understand what class of stock is most affected, what clinical signs are seen and how well they respond to treatment.

This will help researchers at COWS track lungworm cases throughout the 2024 grazing season.

In recent years, scientists have been aware of reports of suspected lack of efficacy of wormers to treat lungworm infections in cattle.

Helen Carty, veterinary centre manager for the SRUC explained: “But no-one is sure whether this due to growing resistance of lungworm to the wormers or is it solely down to poor administration, such as under-dosing or inappropriate timing?

“Many farmers use a pour-on when they hear cattle coughing out in the fields. If the cough goes away, it is presumed that the wormer has worked.

"If they cough again, what should the farmer do? It can be hard to know if the cough is because lungworm are still present, or have the cattle developed a bacterial infection because their lungs were damaged?”

Following a VMD-supported industry workshop held by COWS at Moredun in March 2023, it was recognised that taking a standardised approach to assessing wormer efficacy will help understand these issues.

COWS has devised an online survey for vets to fill in and submit when they come across cases of lungworm.

The collated, anonymised data from the survey will be used to form the basis of future discussions around the issue.

“We would like vets to supply information from lungworm outbreaks, tell us about any testing undertaken and response to treatment,” said Ms Carty.

“We are not expecting to see a lot of survey forms coming in until the second half of the grazing season but want vets to be aware that the survey is available.

"The priority at the moment is for young cattle to be vaccinated before turnout if they are on farms with a high risk of lungworm.”

The results of the survey will be released in 2025.