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

 

Getting the farm ready for winter

They say that, for people, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. However, making sure the farm animals around Frome, Melksham, Trowbridge, Warminster & Westbury have the right environment this winter will make the difference between a productive and comfortable or an un-necessarily grim few months.

To help ensure you’re ready, the farm vets at Wyvern Farm Vets have produced a few simple tips to help you stave off the worst effects of deteriorating weather. To help smallholders manage their to-do’s we’ve also produced a handy ‘Preparing for Cold Weather tick-list’ for you to download and consider.

Get our winter prep tick-list

 

Water

You don’t need us to tell you that Autumn can be dampish is Somerset & Wiltshire and across the country. Almost ironically therefore a winter priority is to secure the right water supply for animals. All animals will drink more water in winter, and many will do better if it’s slightly warmed. If you can’t accommodate this, then be aware that even the thinnest topping of ice may prevent animals from drinking properly. Guard against too little water by making plans for when it freezes and checking regularly to ensure all your animals can access fresh water.

Feed

As a rule, young animals need more food and older animals will benefit from getting the best quality sustenance you can muster. There is nothing like protracted cold weather to expose an inadequate diet. As with most things in winter, preparation is the key, so make sure you have enough of what you’ll need on hand before you need it.

Young animals like calves need more as the temperature drops, so whether you’re using whole milk or milk replacer, why not speak to us about the current recommendations and we can calculate specific feed quantities based on your animals age and the prevailing conditions.

Shelter

Most animals will tolerate cold and wet conditions better in a three sided shed than a tight un-ventilated barn. It can be a tricky balance between providing adequate ventilation and guarding against un-helpful drafts. The rules of thumb, whatever the shelter you have, are to ensure its maintained before the weather hits and to make sensible changes to accommodate likely weather scenarios. So, making sure the roof is properly nailed down, the lights work, and the doors will open in the snow, will make everyone’s life easier when the weather hits.

In bigger sheds, consider creating smaller environments, especially for young animals. Bale or wooden shelters and things like Calf Jackets are a way of helping young animals to conserve energy for growing rather than survival.

Bedding

Apart from making sure you’ve got enough bedding available to keep all your animals warm, there are a few extra tips we can share.

First amongst these is keeping that bedding dry. If your animals get wet from the bedding, they will be cold & uncomfortable. Consider;

  • An under-layer of sawdust or sand to absorb moisture
  • More frequent cleaning
  • Mixing wood shavings with straw to help keep animals dryer

When a calf has nested down in straw you should not be able to see its legs and pigs definitely need enough bedding to have a warm place to lie.

Finally, most animals tolerate dry cold air much better than warm, damp or four air, so do keep an eye on ventilation.

Almost finally…Don’t forget yourself

We’re vets not doctors, but one factor that we know helps farmers and smallholders help their animals stay comfortable is if the human that is looking after them is comfortable. Plenty of warm practical clothing and preparing the yard, gates and doors to help access in poor conditions makes all the difference.

In summary we think that the two most important factors in livestock health are the effects, both internally and externally, of air and water: Both should be fresh and pure, and too much or too little of either will cause problems. Apply the same to yourself and you should be good to go.

If you have any questions or want to book a pre-winter farm visit, contact the Wyvern Farm Vets today.

Get our winter prep tick-list

 

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:

Dairy:

  • 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.

Beef:

  • 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

Nutrition:

  • 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.

Hydration:

  • 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
OR
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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