A few weeks back, I wrote about getting sheds ready for the winter.
It may seem obvious — but it is a good idea to get your animals ready too. What this involves depends on the type of animals to be housed, the housing, disease status, and herd history.
Vaccination and dosing programmes need to be put in place well in advance of acting on them.
At this time of year, weanlings are at their most vulnerable. In spring calving suckler herds, they have been or soon will be weaned. It’s a stressful time for these calves, and weaning should be done with the aim of reducing stress levels as much as possible.
There has been a lot of talk about the suckler cow welfare scheme and its benefit to the industry. In my opinion, it has had a huge impact on suckler herds, and subsequently for those buying the weanlings. Many buyers say that weanlings in general are much better quality now than before the scheme. Obvious benefits include the introduction to meal before weaning, and the compulsory dehorning before three weeks of age. Both practices mean lower stress levels around the time of weaning. It is critical that this payment is retained — at least — by the powers-that-be.
Care should also be taken with cows that have had calves taken from under them. Extra care should be taken with first calvers. Best practice if cows are being kept outdoors after weaning is to allocate them a bare paddock and offer straw for a few days. Monitor them for mastitis, and ensure that they are supplemented with magnesium to prevent tetany.
If you tick all the boxes around weaning, it should go smoothly — apart from all the bawling. Some farms will separate cows and calves but leave them in adjacent paddocks with three strands of electric fence, and plenty of current. Some may consider housing the cows for a number of days on straw, for close monitoring, and to ensure thorough drying off occurs.
At this time of year, farmers are also considering what to dose and vaccinate stock with, before housing. This decision-making process should be done in conjunction with a vet, ideally. Your vet will set you in the right direction regarding any tests that could be carried out within your herd to establish exposure to particular diseases.
Housing of stock, even using all of the latest management practices, will heighten stress levels, resulting in them being more susceptible to picking up disease from carriers within the farm. This seems to be very much the case when it comes to respiratory diseases such as IBR (see below), RSV and PI3.
Many suckler farmers also vaccinate in-calf cows to prevent calf scours. If scour has been a problem in the past, it should be considered. Other common diseases vaccinated for include leptospirosis and salmonella.
Parasite control advice should also be sought from your vet. Suckler cows often go un-dosed, but is this the right thing to do? Some will dose first calvers at drying, and not the mature cows. If in doubt, get your vet to take samples and establish your herd’s parasite burden and establish necessary control measures.
Ensure with all stock that you follow the manufacturer’s full recommendations when using doses and vaccines.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, it is essential that sheds are cleaned out and disinfected to avoid the carryover of bugs from last winter.
In the past week, cattle to be finished this winter were being housed. It was becoming obvious that these stock were beginning to lose weight on grass alone. For many, it is not practical to supplement these advanced cattle because of weather, underfoot conditions, and the obvious farmer safety issues. As a result, it is best to get them indoors and begin finishing them.
nFrom the start of 2013, the BVD testing scheme will be compulsory on all farms where calves are born. This will identify any persistently infected animals (PIs).
With regard to IBR, many suckler herds are testing a sample of their cows to try and establish the herd status and take action accordingly. If IBR is identified in a herd, your vet will advise you as to the best course of action. If you have been having a lot of respiratory issues, don’t ignore it, investigate and act. For farms who buy in stock from herds with unknown disease status, the best practice seems to be to vaccinate all stock for IBR.