Scratching an itch may take just a few seconds, but when it’s a continual irritation, the time spent rubbing irritated skin can soon add up to a lot of time away from the food! The upshot is less time spent eating, leading to lower feed intakes and a check on an animal’s growth rates.

Ringworm is one of the most common causes of skin irritation for UK cattle. Affected replacement heifers can take that little bit longer to reach puberty, so age at first calving is delayed. Beef stock may finish later resulting in reduced throughput rates.

Ringworm, caused by a fungus that lives in hairy skin and causes cattle (and humans!) to scratch, is often accepted as a part of youngstock life, possibly because the accepted norm is that it is a self-limiting problem: in healthy animals, it stops being a problem as their immunity develops.

However, the skin lesions can take up to nine months to heal, and in very young or unthrifty stock, they can last even longer. A severe infection can also lead to follow-on skin infections, or prove attractive to flies in summer, leading to major problems. 

Also, don’t forget the effect on humans of this zoonotic disease. There is a risk to staff, particularly as they come into more frequent contact with youngstock during winter housing. With labour shortages on farms it’s even more important to ensure staff health and safety. Furthermore, if the farm is open to visitors, there is a risk of the general public or schoolchildren catching ringworm.

In-feed treatments for ringworm are no longer licensed for food producing animals. Currently, the best option is to vaccinate with Bovilis® Ringvac; This is also particularly useful should adult cattle catch ringworm as it can treat affected animals. Once an animal has been fully vaccinated they are generally protected for the rest of their lives.

This live vaccine reduces clinical signs and the number of affected animals. It also shortens the recovery time for those already infected with the fungus. After the primary course, cattle continue to be protected without needing annual boosters.


But don’t forget that as the housing environment is a major source of the fungus, it’s important to thoroughly clean and disinfect housing between each batch of calves – which will also help reduce the recurrence of diarrhoea and pneumonia as well!