Vet Watch: Pneumonia and milk fever top autumn health issues

James Hollingworth

james hollingworth

Scarsdale Vet Group, Derbyshire

The practice has seen an increase in milk fever with the advent of autumn. This is a result of farmers trying to use what has been abundant late-season grass growth later by keeping dry cows out and also to counteract poor silage and yields.

Cows with milk fever are more likely to suffer from calving problems, mastitis and displaced abomasums.

Calcium-restricted diets, DCAB and magnesium supplementation can all help in its control. Restricted diets need to provide less than 30g calcium daily and are often impossible to achieve, especially at pasture.

DCAB diets can be useful, but can be difficult to understand and control. Recent work has shown that dietary magnesium supplementation has the greatest influence among control strategies. The level required to achieve this is 0.4% of DM, so in problem herds, diets for dry cows should aim for this.

Helen Taylor

helen taylor 

Hook Norton Vets, Oxfordshire

With winter fast approaching, most cattle are now being weaned and housed. We encourage all our suckler herds to worm calves one month before weaning, combining this with the first dose of a pneumonia vaccine. The completion of the second dose then allows a sufficient level of immunity to develop before the calves are challenged with the stress of weaning.

On herds where we were previously having to treat in-contact animals as soon as a pneumonia case was found, we have seen a good reduction in the number of pneumonia cases and concurrently an improvement in daily liveweight gain.

Educating our farmers to always use an anti-inflammatory alongside an antibiotic for pneumonia cases has also proved to be extremely important, reducing the amount of scar tissue that forms within the lungs, hence minimising long-term damage.

Bob Norquay

bob norquay

Northvet Vet Group, Orkney

This year we have gone from what has been a fairly good summer direct to winter with the first snow already arrived. Although there has been sufficient grass, the ground is starting to get soft and cows and suckler calves are starting to be housed for the winter.

More farms are creep feeding outside before housing and this certainly reduces stress on these calves, as they are used to feed by the time they are housed and less reliant on their mothers when they are weaned.

Wherever possible older and younger animals should not be housed in the same air space, but often space is at a premium and ventilation is not ideal. However, with 80-90mph winds, this has not been a problem this past week.

William Barker

william barker

Castle Vet Surgeons, Barnard Castle

Lameness continues to be a problem in many dairy herds. Housing and damp weather means the problem is always worse at this time of year. Increasingly, we are using mobility scoring as a tool to help farmers evaluate lameness within their herds.

Mobility scoring involves monitoring cows walking on a smooth level surface. It proves a useful tool as it allows the prevalence of lameness within a herd to be monitored on an ongoing basis.

This means it is possible to measure the effect of management changes from one season to the next. It also identifies those cows in need of immediate treatment and those cows where prevention will stop them getting worse.

Any suitably qualified person can mobility-score cattle. Ideally, it should be the same person to score each herd, as slight variations will occur between individual scorers.


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