Bob Norquay: Northvet Veterinary Group, Orkney
Housing is a good time to carry out all routine herd procedures before spring calving begins.
Routine scanning of all breeding cows for pregnancy is a valuable tool as it allows an estimation of calving time, particularly for cows which have run with a bull all summer and service dates are scarce.
It also allows identification of cows which are empty or are going to be late in calving.
Early identification of these animals prevents wasteful feeding of non-productive stock all winter. The cull price that can be received also makes them a marketable product and more than offsets the costs of herd pregnancy scanning.
Toby Kemble:Wensum Valley Veterinary Surgeons, Norfolk
There is an increasing demand on farmers to sell breeding stock accredited free of Johne’s disease.
Many farmers are unaware they have a problem, which causes reduced milk output, diarrhoea and wasting. Once an animal is losing weight, it will waste away and become valueless. By blood testing the whole herd, positive animals can be culled before they show signs of wasting. Each animal sold will bring in its own carcase value as well as saving the cost of removal.
Finding only one or two positives in every 100 cows will pay for the cost of testing. If after two years you have found no positive animals you are on the way to accreditation.
Bryony Kendall: Tyndale Farm Veterinary Practice, Gloucestershire
Since housing we have seen a lot of cases of E coli and Strep uberis mastitis.
These bacteria are picked up from the environment and are particularly prevalent at this time of year due to factors that can be hard to control. These include higher stocking density, poor ventilation and high humidity. Even with the best efforts at hygiene, these play an important role.
Now, with the temporary absence of Orbeseal, we are set to see more cases in the New Year. To compensate we are advising using plenty of straw both under cows to keep them clean and in cows to reduce yields before drying off which will reduce milk leakage from the teats.
Phil Alcock: Bishopton Veterinary Group, North Yorkshire
Cold, winter conditions can often bring problems with calf health. Commonly we frequently provide a marginal energy supply in restricted milk feeding programs. When temperatures fall, calves use energy to stay warm, leading to weight loss and a greater chance of disease. As group housed calves may not have the opportunity to nestle down into dry straw and buildings are designed to ventilate by warm air rising, then the ability of the calf to keep warm is restricted. Increasing milk feeding, providing shelter and re-appraising winter ventilation have all cut losses in cold weather. These issues are all worthy of thought ahead of the second half of this winter.XL Vets is a group of farm animal-committed vet practices that work alongside commercial research and manufacturing companies. They aim to share best practice on advice and disease-prevention initiatives.