Housed cattle health – five things to check

Having the cows in for winter is the perfect opportunity to give your cattle a once over, and we recommend doing this before the winter season kicks in properly. Wyvern Farm Vets’ team offers five tips to ensure your heard remains healthy while housed.

Book a winter check

1. Check vaccinations

The housed environment is pretty much a perfect one for viruses to multiply and affect your stock. So, we strongly advise checking that your vaccination protocol is up to date. Prevention will save Cow weight time and money on treatments when the real cold weather of January & February arrives.

2. Check parasite control

This is also a good time to check your parasite control regimes, so if you haven’t already then please do talk to us as the requirement varies farm by farm.

  1. Wormers – We’ll always suggest running a faecal egg count before spending money on wormers if they are not necessary.
  2. Lungworm and Fluke require further testing so we can diagnose an issue before treating. This will also reduce the risk of resistance.
  3. Should animals need treating, it’s important to get them the right product, at the right time in order to leave the herd clean for the housed period. For example, if a shed or group of animals has mites/lice, they should be treated immediately to avoid spread. However, if fluke is an issue, it is best to treat animals 6–8 weeks after housing so that you can hit all stages of the fluke lifecycle.

3. Check your sheds

Most of the problems that we see with housed cattle in the Somerset and Wiltshire area arise due to issues with sheds. Fresh air flow is essential to avoid pneumonia, yet it’s also important to avoid draughts at low level to protect younger stock from draughts. So, have another look at the airflow in your housing as we know that cattle in optimally ventilated sheds perform better.

4. Adequate feed and water space

Speaking of space, having the correct feed to face space is essential for getting housed cattle fed properly. Bullying at feed times is common, and this can be hugely reduced by having the correct feed space for your cows. This varies, depending on the size of the animals and whether you have a dairy or a beef heard. Contact our farm vets for advice if you’d like to check the requirements for your herd.

Other feed tips to bear in mind

  1. Cows should be able to feed head down to encourage saliva production and you will get more out of your feed.
  2. Troughs should be clean and smooth to avoid damage to cow’s mouth/tongue.
  3. Ensure that barriers don’t inhibit your cows’ reach or cause pressure sores that will affect feed intakes.

5. Slurry management

Slurry needs to be kept to be kept under control. If you use them, cubicle beds should be cleaned daily with the bedding replaced as required to keep it clear of muck. Feet that stand in moisture of any kind will become soft, which increases the chance of lameness, Digital Dermatitis and claw horn diseases.

We hope that’s useful. If you need any further advice please don’t hesitate to call us or for specific help just book a visit.

Book a winter check


Body Condition Scoring (BCS) in Beef Cattle

Body condition scores are a vital part of successful fertility management on beef units. These techniques are ways of managing body condition score changes throughout the year if required:

  • House later if grass growth and quality has been good in the summer and a decrease in BCS is required
  • Wean calves later if a decrease in BCS is required
  • Increase straw in the ration, costs allowing, to decrease ME of ration and prevent excessive BCS gain during winter housing
  • Manage thin cows and heifers as a single group requiring extra energy to allow accurately targeted feeding

During winter housing feeding 1kg of barley/day will equate to a gain in BCS of approximately ½ unit body condition score

During summer wean calves earlier if thin or a heifer; weaning 1 month earlier will equate to a gain in BCS of ¼ unit if pasture quality is good.

If you would like to know more about Body Condition Scoring please contact our farm team.


Turnout worming advice

Read our turnout worming advice on:


  • Test before you treat. Monitor both liver and rumen fluke by faecal egg counting (FECs) before turnout for second season heifers and treat as required. Also, test all calves around 4-6 weeks post turnout.
  • Where possible, turn out first grazing season calves such as replacement heifers onto low-risk pastures.
  • Where there is a risk of lungworm infection, based on the farm history or buying-in policy, consider vaccinating youngstock before turnout. For older stock, give us a call to complete a risk assessment with a vet.


  • Test before you treat. Monitor both liver and rumen fluke by FECs before turnout for second season heifers and treat as required.
  • Where possible, turn out first grazing season cattle such as dairy x beef calves and autumn-born weaned suckled calves on to low-risk pasture.
  • Spring-born suckler calves that are still suckling are not likely to need any treatment for worms. Any larvae on the pasture will be consumed by their mothers who will be mostly immune.
  • Where there is a risk of lungworm infection, based on the farm history or buying-in policy, consider vaccinating youngstock before turnout. For older stock, give us a call to do a risk assessment with a vet.

Sheep 2023 planning:

  • Liver Fluke: continues to be unpredictable across regions, farms and even individual fields. Please give us a call to discuss different testing options available to you.
  • Worms will have enjoyed the previous mild Autumn weather and continue to be a threat to lambs grazing contaminated pastures. Continue to use FECs as appropriate.
  • Sheep Scab: Continue to test and treat accordingly by either arranging a skin scrape or blood ELISA test through us.
  • Lungworm: Still remains a rare problem is sheep. If you are concerned about coughing sheep, please give us a call.


Good post-operative care on the farm

Following a recent seminar on farm animal surgery, Alex Roberts gives us some key factors to achieve a speedy recovery:

Operations on farm animals are commonplace; from caesareans to enucleations (eye removal). As with any procedure, complications can arise. Good post-operative care is key to welfare and vital to ensure the animal continues it’s productive life.

With good stockman ship, husbandry and communication with the operating vet, many complications after surgery can be avoided. Here’s what to watch out for:

Pain and discomfort:

  • Decreased movement/altered locomotion
  • Decreased interaction with other animals
  • Reduced feed intake (hollow left flank due to poor rumen fill)
  • Tooth grinding
  • Dull/poor coat condition
  • Reduced mental activity & responsiveness
  • Animals post-op MUST have clean, dry, comfortable bedding that is grippy under foot.

Wound complications:

  • Swelling/redness
  • Heat
  • Abnormal discharge


  • Poor feed intakes – Most likely related to pain

Access to feed

  • Bullying
  • Animals post-op MUST have access to good quality forage at all times.


  • Can be related to pain
  • Poor access to water
  • Signs include poor skin tenting, sunken/hollow eyes, tacky mucous membranes (gums)
  • Correction of hydration can be achieved by stomach tube. This is an extremely useful tool for farmer & vet.

Medication compliance:

  • Most animals will be placed on a course of antibiotics. Due to the nature of surgery on farm, it is never completely sterile. As a result, infections are a risk.
  • It is important to completely finish any course of medication. Sometimes an extended course may be needed.

Communication with the vet is important if you notice any of the above signs. Early detection results in faster treatment and faster recovery.


Six-monthly TB testing

Please be aware that APHA are beginning to phase in six-monthly TB testing for herds in High Risk Areas of England from July 2021.

Increasing the frequency of surveillance testing in the HRA from annual to six-monthly will help detect TB-infected herds at an earlier stage. This reduces the time M. bovis can spread within the herd, be transmitted to other herds, and potentially shed in the farm environment. Farms with no TB breakdown in the previous six years or accredited Level 1 or above in the TB CHECs health scheme will be eligible to stay on annual testing.

First routine WHT – Between July and December 2021 Next test window (if 1st test clear) – First six-monthly herd test from January 2022 onwards
First routine WHT – Between January and June 2022 Next test window (if first test is clear) – First six-monthly herd test from July 2022

To find out more about TB testing on your farm or smallholding, or if you have specific questions that aren’t covered here, feel free to contact our farm vets for advice.


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