2015-03-27  facebook twitter rss

Neospora Incidence Increases Significantly

The parasite-based disease Neospora caninum has been added to Cattle Health Certification Standards (CHeCS) following evidence of rising levels of infection in the UK and Ireland.

It is the first new disease in 15 years to be added to CHeCS, the regulatory body for cattle health schemes in the UK and Ireland, and joins Johne’s Disease, BVD, IBR and Leptospirosis.

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photo: Farm Images

CHeCS executive director Tim Brigstocke explains that the decision to include Neospora in the list of target diseases is due to evidence of infection levels as high as 51% across UK beef and dairy herds.

He says: “Neospora is hosted in dogs, and can cause abortion in cattle if they ingest oocysts shed by infected dogs. The parasite can also be spread during pregnancy to the foetus from dams infected before their own birth.

“The economic effect is therefore mainly associated with the cost of abortion. This is either directly in the form of the loss of a calf but also – in the dairy industry – failure to get a cow back into milk. Cattle infected with the parasite are up to seven times more likely to abort, and with an average dairy herd size of 121 cows, the cost to a farm each year is around £3,000.”

Mr Brigstocke is now calling on farmers to get involved in one of the licensed health schemes on the CHeCS website to eradicate Neospora and the economic loss arising from infection.

Gareth Hateley, veterinary lead of the Cattle Expert Group of the Government’s Animal and Plant Health Agency, explains that aside from actively participating in CHeCS licensed health scheme, there are other steps farmers can take to reduce Neospora incidence.

“Farmers keeping closed herds will reduce the risk of introducing Neospora onto the farm,” he says. “They should dispose of cattle tissues left over from a calving, or aborted foetuses. If infected with Neospora these pose a high risk of transmitting the parasite to dogs.

“Dogs should also be prevented from having access to calving areas or parts of the farm where pregnant cattle are kept in order to stop them becoming infected from eating placenta or abortion material. Dog owners should be made aware of the risks too; if the dogs is infected and they don’t pick up faeces after it, there is a possibility that they could be leaving infected material for cattle to eat as well as starting off the whole cycle again.”

Mr Hateley adds that there are currently no licensed drugs for the treatment of Neospora infection in cattle. “Nor are there any vaccines available in the UK so preventative measures are key to controlling the spread of Neospora.”

CHeCS accredited schemes already running Neospora programmes are APHA Herdsure, HiHealth Herdcare, Limo Leader Herd Health (in Ireland only), Premium Herd Health and NML.

The recently redeveloped CHeCS website is a good starting point for farmers looking at introducing a herd health scheme on-farm. Not only does it list the accredited schemes which tackle Neospora, Johne’s Disease, BVD, IBR and Leptospirosis, it also offers information on these non-statutory diseases including clinical signs, treatment and financial impact.

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