“We see sporadic outbreaks of ringworm in our livestock and can’t seem to get rid of it. What exactly causes ringworm and how can we prevent it?”
-Puzzled in Pennsylvania
There are many producers across the nation who experience bouts of ringworm and struggle to get rid of it. Ringworm is caused by a contagious fungus called Trichophyton verrucosum. This fungus spreads easily throughout groups of livestock, especially those housed indoors. The spores multiply and spread rapidly, and can be picked up anywhere in the environment. Once an animal comes into contact with the spores, they irritate the skin and cause an infection.
Ringworm is classically observed as a variety of circular, grey-white scabs. It is most commonly seen on the facial area and around the eyes but can be found anywhere on the body1. Ringworm will typically resolve itself without treatment; however, this can take up to nine months2.
Many sources suggest different home remedies to cure ringworm but the surest way to address it is through prevention. Crystal Creek® recommends an examination of the nutritional support of the livestock and an inspection of their surrounding environment. A balanced nutrition program with sound trace minerals, including selenium, and Vitamins A, D, & E, aids in supporting the immune status of the animal. A strong immune system makes it more difficult for the fungal spores to infect the animal’s skin. Crystal Creek® offers an entire line of calf products formulated with high levels of bioavailable vitamins and minerals to support the immune system such as: Swift Start® Texturized Calf Feed, Swift Start® Calf Pellets, and Swift Start® Calf & Heifer Mineral. Many producers have observed ringworm all but leave their youngstock after switching to the Swift Start® program due to the improvement in vitamin and trace mineral quality.
In addition to sound nutrition, regular sun exposure will help reduce the incidence of ringworm. It is also a good idea to routinely clean any equipment used to handle animals. It is especially important to thoroughly clean grooming and show equipment, as items like brushes and halters can harbor spores over the winter and infect new animals the following spring. Remember that an animal does not need to have visible ringworm scabs to be carrying the infectious spores.
Lastly, ringworm, as with any disease, can be introduced to the herd from incoming animals. Isolating new animals for a set period of time will help to ensure that they are not carrying any transmissible diseases that may present with clinical signs after arrival. Focusing on these key preventative strategies will save much time and effort down the road with reduced ringworm outbreaks.
1 Purdue University Cooperative Extension Services
2 Langford Veterinary Services, University of Bristol
By Jessica Getschel, B.S.
Please submit your animal health or nutrition questions in writing to:
Ask the Vet/Nutritionist
1600 Roundhouse Road
Spooner, WI 54801