Calving dairy cow© Kathy Horniblow

A spate of difficult calvings in Staffordshire prompts one vet to remind farmers how to avoid large calves at birth.

With grazing season well under way, vet Liz Watson highlights how to avoid wormer resistance developing in your flock. 

Meanwhile, farmers are being encouraged to prepare for winter in advance of winter housing to prevent pneumonia, by assessing their shed design and conducting a thorough cleanout.

See also: Rethinking cattle performance: How to improve old calf sheds on a budget

John Cammack

Glenthorne Veterinary Group, Uttoxeter, Staffordshire

John Cammack

John Cammack

A late spring flurry of difficult calvings culminated in one memorable afternoon of eight calvings, of which four required caesareans. The problems were caused by the usual mix of oversized calves, malpresentations and deformed calves. One looked like a classic Schmallenberg case.

The main cause of calving difficulties are calves that are too big through excessive feeding, poor sire choice or a mother that is either poorly grown or overfat.

Overconditioned cows lay down too much fat in the pelvis, reducing the size of the birth canal, so aim to calve at an ideal body condition score of 2.5-3.

Estimated breeding values (EBVs) can be used to select bulls that will reduce the incidence of calving problems. Choose bulls that have low birthweight, short gestation length and a good EBV for direct calving ease.

Knowing when to call for veterinary assistance is important to reduce problems in the following breeding season. In one survey, only 25% of cows assisted to calve by the stockman got back in calf the following year compared with 75% that had undergone a caesarean.

Danielle Priestley

St. Boniface Veterinary Clinic, Crediton, Devon

Danielle Priestley

Danielle Priestley

Here at St Boniface Vets we are now offering cattle IVF to our clients as well as a conventional embryo service. IVF should be considered as an alternative to multiple ovulation embryo transfer (Moet) for several reasons.

A larger number of embryos can be generated in a shorter timeframe as an egg collection can be made every two weeks.

Eggs can also be collected from juvenile heifers, from pregnant heifers during their first trimester and from animals with a range of reproductive disorders.

Less semen is used per fertilisation and several bulls can be used, giving greater scope for genetic improvement. The latest science also minimises the high birthweights that have previously been linked with this technique.

In an area where TB is such a concern, IVF provides us with another option to preserve genetic lines.

Liz Watson

Cain Veterinary Centre, Llansantffraid, Powys

Liz Watson

Liz Watson

Throughout the grazing season, most lambs will inevitably pick up worms. Anthelmintics (wormers) have a role in controlling these burdens. A common question asked by farmers is which product is best to use. This is not a straightforward question to answer.

In the UK there is widespread resistance to the “traditional” classes of wormer (white, clear, yellow). It is important to establish the spectrum of resistance on your farm and to have a quarantine protocol for incoming sheep. Unless this has been done it is difficult to advise on which product will work best.

There are also two newer classes of anthelmintics available that have little known resistance. Correct use of these alongside effective traditional wormers can make a big difference to lamb performance.

It is essential to get good advice to avoid speeding the development of resistance on your farm.

Roddy Dunse

Dunmuir Veterinary Group, Castle Douglas, Dumfries & Galloway

Roddy Dunse

Roddy Dunse

The retail world will already be stocking up on whatever Santa will be dropping down the chimney this year. For livestock farmers, Santa can bring pneumonia by the shed load if you do not have a chimney in your calf shed.

Over the years, pneumonia control in general has become ever more effective as we have all become more aware of the influence of shed design, timing and the condition of stock before housing.

A functioning open ridge, draught-free inlets that provide clean air and a stack effect are all fundamental prerequisites.

Now is the time to power wash and do the remedial repairs to empty calf sheds and discuss with your vet if pneumonia vaccination with some of the broad range of vaccines available may be appropriate for your herd.