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Vet viewpoint: regional round-up of key veterinary issues

Ian Gill, Thrums Vets, Angus

A great deal of research into animal health, production and welfare is carried out in the UK, but many of these ideas take several years to be implemented on farm.

In an attempt to help bridge this so called “valley of death” between the lab and the marketplace, XLVets has formed a collaboration with the Moredun Foundation. This initiative will see the two organisations sharing information for the benefit of farmers and their stock. This will also allow feedback of problems to the scientists.

One way XLVets bring this new knowledge on to the farms is through the Farmskills and Agritrain courses. Another way is by attending the Moredun Animal Health autumn road shows. So the next time you have a health and production problem or solution, tell your vet so that together we can bridge this gap.

Jake Lawson, Kingsway Vets, Skipton

Being the newest vet in the practice, I’ve been spending a lot of time TB testing recently. I was involved in a local meeting with speakers from the AHVLA, local vets and a member of the TB advisory group for England (TBEG) to discuss what is going on, and how best to control TB coming into our area. They showed that the recent outbreaks had all come from cattle moved from yearly testing interval areas and assured us it would not be in the wildlife yet. Their advice was to avoid buying in from these areas, as even with pre-movement testing, these animals pose a significantly increased risk of bringing TB on to your farm. Not bringing cattle that have spent any part of their lifetime in these high-incidence areas on to your farm is the best way of minimising the risk TB. I’m glad to say the increased testing in the area appears to be working, with no further cases reported in the past few weeks.

Steve Trickey, Chapelton Vets, Norfolk

Although everyone is busy with harvest, either combining or straw carting, we are still managing to continue to meet up with our farmers who have taken part in BVD FREE Programme for England. Following on from the blood testing of youngstock, we now know the current status of BVD infection on each farm. Fortunately, the majority of farms tested are showing no evidence of BVD, and as none of these currently vaccinate, the main focus of the discussions is biosecurity and how we make sure we keep BVD out. On the positive BVD farms, implementing plans to find the persistently infected (PI) animals is key to eradicating BVD. This will involve either blood sampling or the use of tissue-sampling ear tags. The ear tags provide a cost-effective way of looking for virus-positive animals. The advice for any PI animal found would be to cull it as soon as possible to prevent further infection spreading to other cattle.

Bill Main, Belmont Vets, Herefordshire

The recent prolonged hot and dry July has now been followed by some days with torrential rainfall and flooding, but it has stayed warm.

Consequently, we are anticipating outbreaks of lungworm in our client’s cattle and parasitic gastroenteritis in the lambs.

The rain will not only help the grass grow, but it will also help all those worm larvae – developed from eggs laid earlier this spring and summer – to climb to the top of the herbage ready to be eaten by susceptible animals. The wetness now after such a long, hot spell will mean a huge infection challenge to all susceptible animals, usually this year’s lambs and cattle in their first grazing season, but increasingly we are seeing it in adult dairy cows at grass where their immunity has waned.

So any coughing of your cattle at grass, take note. And similarly it is a good time to send in some pooled faecal lamb samples to check out their status.

Vet Viewpoint: regional round-up of key veterinary issues

Four vets outline the key areas of concern on farm for January 2013 for our latest Vet Viewpoint.

Rachael Robertson
Westmorland Veterinary Group
Cumbria

In a year like this, where many sheep are losing the battle with immature stages of fluke, it seems hard to find anything light-hearted to say. Among the debates about treatments, it’s interesting to see the power of the countryside grapevine in action. In this instance it’s definitely not been helpful.

“Resistance” is the buzzword of the year and resistance to triclabendazole certainly exists. But just because your fluke treatment hasn’t worked as well as you would like doesn’t mean resistance is present. Reinfection is common, so don’t deny your sheep the one drug which can kill the fluke.

I would urge you to ignore hearsay and involve your vet if you have any concerns over treatment success.

Edward J Loveday
Willows Vet Group
Cheshire

Recently I was called out to see a Swedish Red cross cow which had been caught by the shear-grab during feeding, resulting in severe facial trauma – a hopeless prognosis.

Similar cases include crush injuries associated with both rotary parlours and the use of mixer wagons at feed barriers. With so many daily routine jobs to get through, complacency is inevitable.

Nobody’s perfect, but such cases serve as a good reminder to stay switched-on when using machinery near cattle.

Rachel Griffiths
Tyndale Vets
Gloucestershire

I’ve been called out to two lambings recently; both had twins with signs of schmallenberg virus. When struggling to lamb a ewe, consider whether the lambs are deformed – feel for fused bent legs and a large head. It is easy to damage ewes with excessive force and it should be remembered that these lambs may well be alive. Therefore call your vet at the earliest sign of difficulty to give the ewe the best chance.

The constant rain has made managing lameness hard. I have recently seen a flock outbreak of contagious ovine digital dermatitis. The chance of successful treatment of this severe disease depends upon identifying cases early, with success rates of 77% at best. Creating a treatment and prevention plan with your vet is invaluable to minimise losses. Quarantine and promptly treat infected sheep and cull non-responsive cases. Use a footbath and consider foot-rot vaccination to aid control.

Rob Henderson
Midshire Vets
Warwickshire

Our farmers have endured “a perfect storm” this grazing season that may lead to some difficult times ahead. Grazing conditions last summer were atrocious, with delayed turnouts and severe poaching. Add to this poor grass silage and a disastrous maize crop, it is not surprising that pregnancy testing results are disappointing and dairy farms are reporting a reduction in yield. Pregnancy rates appear to be most disappointing in our spring calving suckler herds. And then there’s Schmallenberg.

We saw a trickle of stillborn, deformed calves and lambs in the summer, while autumn brought cases of milk drop, raised temperatures and diarrhoea on some dairy farms. We have now confirmed Schmallenberg infection on 20 farms and suspect the rest will have been infected.

It’s difficult to say how much effect Schmallenberg has had on fertility. Our early lambing flocks and spring calving herds are particularly nervous. We await a vaccine.

More on this topic

Read previous vet watch columns

Vet viewpoint: regional round-up of key veterinary issues

Howard Kennock, Wensum Valley Vets, Norfolk

A high proportion of respiratory disease in cattle occurs within one month of housing and usually sees autumn-born calves more severely affected. Interaction between viruses and bacteria result in severe illness.

Prevention is always better than a cure and with that in mind, good management along with proper housing is key. Calves should receive plenty of colostrum and stressful events such as weaning, castration and housing should not be carried out together. Also avoid mixing different ages of stock to prevent disease being transferred to the younger animals with low immunity. And adequate ventilation without being draughty is important to ensure any droplets carrying viruses or bacteria are not allowed to build up and cause disease.

Many vaccines are available and can be used to help protect susceptible animals. They should be used in combination with good management.

John Cammack, Glenthorne Veterinary Group

Now is the time to plan your post-housing cattle parasite treatments.

All youngstock benefit from an avermectin-type wormer treatment, which will remove inhibited worms (the cause of winter dysentery) as well as providing lice and mange control. The long-acting products are unnecessary, as the cattle will not be picking up any worms inside.

In fluke areas, treat all cattle a few weeks post-housing with a flukicide as well. If using a flukicide that only kills adults, a second treatment eight weeks later is advisable to remove any remaining flukes. This will also help reduce pasture contamination when the cattle are turned out in the spring. Flukicide resistance does occur, but testing is complex. It is best done once the cows are housed.

Matthew Berriman Rosevean Veterinary Practice, Cornwall

We diagnosed our first case of Schmallenberg virus in the practice about a month ago. The affected herd had a number of cows with severe milk drop and scour lasting about a week. Since the initial diagnosis, bulk milk tests on a number of herds in the practice have all indicated exposure to the virus. We suspect most herds and flocks across the area have been infected, but will have to wait until the spring to see if there is any increase in the number of abnormal calves and lambs born.

Many herds have suffered poor conception rates due to suboptimal energy intakes through the summer due to weather conditions. Other reasons include: BVD outbreaks, infertile bulls and even a broken semen flask. Fertility can be affected by many factors on the farm and attention to detail key to getting as many cows as possible in-calf.

Graham Tibbot, Castle Vets, County Durham

With winter approaching and many farms short on feed, it is worth pregnancy scanning ewes. There are several advantages to this: ewes with singles should not require supplementary feeding unless body condition scores are low; those carrying multiple lambs can be managed separately to prevent twin lamb disease and any barren ewes can be sold fat. A barren ewe rate of more than 5% warrants investigation; blood can be tested for trace element deficiency or infectious disease.

Farmers lambing early should be aware of abortion. Any ewe aborting should be isolated until discharges have stopped as well as removing afterbirth and lambs from the pasture to prevent spread of infection. If more than 2% of ewes abort, you should consult your vet as leaving an abortion problem unchecked may result in increased losses the following year. Reliable vaccines are available to prevent toxoplasma and enzootic abortion (EAE).

More on this topic

Read last month’s Vet Watch column

Vet viewpoint: regional round-up of key veterinary issues

Alistair Macpherson, Shropshire Farm Vets, Shropshire

Recently we had the first two confirmed diagnoses of Schmallenberg virus (SBV) in cows belonging to two different farmers. They were sick and off their milk. Cases have recently been confirmed in adjoining counties but we believe these are the first in Shropshire and, more worryingly, several of our dairy herds are showing increases in late-term abortions and sick fresh cows.

As a result we are now testing for SBV on many of these dairies with results pending. It is most concerning that SBV has been known to cause a milk drop of up to 4L a cow on a herd basis and a 30-50% drop in individual cows. Pregnancy rates in infected herds can also decrease by as much as 75%. We await the test results with interest and more than a little trepidation.

Chris Luckhurst, Calweton Vets, Cornwall

It always pays to get your basics right. As an example, fine-tuned rations are made worthless by a lack of feeding space. the requirement is 0.7m a cow is, and although it is often quoted that this can be reduced by 25%, in reality mass group feeding occurs frequently.

Dead-end passages and dominant cow bullying further reduces available feed space. The cow has an amazing sense of taste and smell, but imagine if you went to a restaurant for a meal and had to drink from a communal coffee cup full of dribble from the previous drinker and eat with a food-encrusted fork off dirty plates. That’s if you are lucky enough to get a seat.

Worse still, food acids often corrode the trough surface so you would have to dodge the broken shards of china. In a dairy herd, feeding is the absolute fundamental for getting everything else right and attention to basics pays back in productivity.

James Frayne, Millcroft Veterinary Group, Cumbria

Liver fluke is expected to be a major problem this winter following the wet summer preceded by a mild winter last year. This has provided ideal conditions for the mud snail, which is the intermediate host of the fluke, to flourish particularly in the west of the country.

Timing of treatments and choice of drug is critical to control. Triclabendazole is the only drug to effectively kill early immature fluke and is therefore the drug of choice for use in sheep now (in the absence of documented resistance). The drugs nitroxynil and closantel are suitable for use in cattle several weeks post-housing and sheep in late winter as they kill late immature and adult flukes. Benzimadazole (white drench) wormers, which also have activity against fluke, can be used where a spring dose is required as these kill adult fluke only.

James McClorey, Parlands Veterinary Group, Northern Ireland

Managing the transition cow is never simple, and this year, with questionable forage availability and quality, will be more challenging. The following three steps will give some assistance.

Acidosis: Managing the transition from high forage dry cow diet to high concentrate lactating diet is vital and requires careful integration to avoid acidosis.

Body condition: Monitor the herd to have a body condition score of 3-3.5 at calving. Control during the dry period is simpler if this can be achieved.

Calcium: To avoid sub clinical milk fever, the balance between magnesium, potassium and calcium all need to be considered. Forage has the biggest influence on potassium and this needs balancing with a high magnesium/low calcium supplement.


Vet viewpoint is a regional monthly round-up of key veterinary issues from members of the XL Vets group.


More on this topic

Keep up to date with all the latest news on the Schmallenberg virus, including symptoms and advice about what to do if you think it’s in your herd or flock

Vet viewpoint: Regional round-up of key veterinary issues

XL Vets give a regional round-up for the key veterinary issues including herd management, managing cobalt levels and Schmallenberg virus.

Ian Bates, Fenwold Vet Practics, Spilsby

The most efficient reproductive figure for a beef herd is 65% of calves born in the first three weeks of a nine week calving block – this generates the highest amount of beef a year.

Did your herd achieve these figures this spring? Many factors will affect this such as poor cow condition/nutrition and infectious disease, but bull fertility is one of the most important.

While complete infertility is rare, sub-fertility is relatively common (as many as 20% of bulls) and manifests as prolonged calving blocks.

An annual bull “MOT” to include a general physical examination, feet to be trimmed and a fertility test, represents a sound investment in beef herd management.

Claire Riddell, Alnorthumbria Vet Group, Alnwick

It is important to keep lambs moving forward to finishing without growth disruption.

Although minerals are often blamed for poor performance, cobalt deficiency is one in particular that can significantly impair growth. Cobalt is converted to vitamin B12 by the gut bacteria, which is then used by the lamb’s liver for energy production. Low levels can reduce appetite and hence growth rates.

Affected lambs can also be open fleeced and may have conjunctivitis. Deficiency can be diagnosed by appropriate blood sampling as little cobalt is stored in the body. Supplementation can be given by B12 injection or oral dosing, but these have to be repeated at monthly and fortnightly intervals respectively.

Pasture dressing or bolusing are longer term solutions. In our practice we are using a novel long-acting injection. Contact your vet for further information.

Bill Pepper, Cliffe Vets, Lewes

Schmallenberg has hit East Sussex hard. The official figures (39 sheep and five cattle at the time of writing) are a considerable underestimate. Most local flock owners have reported cases this spring and a sack full of deformed lambs is presumed to be SBV.

The highest incidence was in early lambing flocks. Now it is the turn of cattle cases, with two recent SBV caesarians required on suckler cows as the only way to salvage the cow. What percentage of each flock is immune? How long acting will this immunity be? At what point in the year do naïve, young or any bought-in animals from the north of England become immune and therefore safe to breed from?

A blood test for SBV antibodies would answer some of these questions and should be commercially available soon, hopefully before the midge season returns and then informed stock breeding decisions can be made .

Jon Reader, Synergy Farm Health, Dorchester

Mobility scoring is often seen as a tick box exercise for farm assurance, but many farmers are beginning to realise it is a vital management tool to control lameness.

We often hear farmers score their cows every day, but it is well recognised that an outside pair of eyes will score cows two to three times more severely than someone who sees the cows daily.

We often advise a farmer’s wife is trained up to do this and often the results are startling for no better reason than they will give their other half a good earful once they see the lame cows.

Research shows it needs to be done regularly and acted upon quickly. 50% of cows will change score between fortnightly scoring and a rapid response will reduce lame cows by 80%. Leaving them a fortnight before treatment reduces cure rates by 15%. Get scoring.

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