Speaking to a number of farmers over the last week, the issue of cattle starting to lick was mentioned more than once. This year’s calves have been housed for at least three to four weeks on many farms and so it is the perfect time to treat for external parasites.

Licking cattle is a sure sign of lice or mites and while it may look harmless, such an issue can cause severe discomfort to cattle. Anything that is going to cause stress or discomfort will also have a negative effect on daily liveweight gain.

There is no point in going to the trouble of making top-quality silage and feeding a good quality ration if you do not have animals with a clean bill of health that can perform over the housed period.

Treatments

Typically a pour-on product is used to treat lice, however be aware that not all products will cover for both biting and sucking lice, so choose the product carefully.

When treating animals for lice, it is important that animals have been housed for at least three weeks as you want all the eggs to have hatched prior to treatment. Also, all animals in the shed must be treated at the same time as lice will jump from one animal to another.

Take the opportunity to clip the animals' backs if they are yet to be done. While ths is not necessary for the treatment to work, it will ensure the product makes contact with the skin of the animal as soon as possible after application.

Clipping cattle will also reduce sweating which can lead to problems with pneumonia.

It has also been shown to help increase feed intake as animals that are clipped are able to lose more heat than those that are not clipped. This will help maximise the amount of silage cattle are eating which will help to maximise liveweight gain over the winter period.