Vet Viewpoint: New farm assurance rules and a French Alps trip

The recent weather has been completely out of the norm and while it has caused its own problems for livestock farmers, lots of the vet visits reported this month have been for the routine issues.

The recent warm spell has brought nematodirus issues, according to Neil Laing from Lanark and a much earlier outbreak of fly strike in sheep. At the same time, grass staggers have been causing problems later than usually expected in suckler herds.

See also: Pelvic measuring helps halve assisted calvings and calf losses


Nick Pile

Nick Pile

Cliffe Veterinary Group, Lewes

The focus on antibiotics use reduction has spread from dairies to beef and sheep farms this month. The new Red Tractor requirements stipulate that beef and sheep farms must now have an annual veterinary herd/flock health plan review.  

This must identify key health issues in the herd/flock and make recommendations to improve any issues highlighted. Within this, there is a strong focus on antibiotics reduction. Vets are now required to

  • Provide a review of total antibiotics use
  • Make suggestions where antibiotics use may be reduced without compromising animal welfare
  • Appraise the use of preventative antibiotics and suggest alternative strategies for disease prevention
  • Review the use of critically important antibiotics and recommend reduction strategies

We held farmer meetings last week focusing on these strategies and all farmers who attended received a certificate of training – a further requirement under the scheme.

Roger Scott

Roger Scott

Roger Scott

Scott Mitchell Associates, Hexham

Having just returned from the French Alps with a farm study group of Northumbrian beef and sheep farmers, the reflections were always going to be interesting.

Our first visit was with the local vet to a 40-cow dairy herd in Samoens in the Giffre valley. It felt like a visit to a farm museum, but as Confucius famously said:“To divine the future, first study the past.”

The opening line was underwhelming… “These Abondance cows produce about 6,000 litres.” However, the rest was interesting.

The cows are only fed alpine pasture and hay. Why? To qualify as a registered reblechon cheese producer, that’s what you have to feed.

They have to walk seven miles to the higher pasture in summer and they get milked up there. Do they get bad feet? Never. Do they get mastitis? Never. Do they get left displaced abomasums? What’s one of those?

How many lactations do they have? Up to 15. Do they test for TB? No, there isn’t any.

How much do they get for their milk? 55p/litre. What does the farmer drive? A brand-new pickup.

Neil Laing

Neil Laing

Neil Laing

Clyde Veterinary Group, Lanark

We are still very busy in Lanarkshire, with an extended spring workload. Fortunately grass is at least growing.

The recent warm weather has brought its challenges, with a much earlier outbreak of fly strike in sheep than we would ordinarily see. This has led to earlier treatments with pyrethroid products and applying insect growth regulator prevention products.

Nematodirus has been more prevalent than other years – again, probably due to the warm weather – so the need for white drench products have greatly increased.

Coccidiosis has been an issue on some farms, so careful diagnosis has been needed to differentiate from nematodirus.

Lots of silage has been made despite the late spring and the regrowth has been impressive. This has also led to some later-than-expected cases of grass tetany or staggers, particularly in beef cows. Every year is slightly different.

Rachel Hayton

Rachel Hayton

Rachel Hayton 

Synergy Farm Health, Evershot, Dorchester

We have seen lots of left displaced abomasums this month. Speak to your vet about effective transition and fresh cow management.

Also, the same old conditions crop up every spring; and most of them are preventable.

Suckler cows at grass need some form of magnesium. Many of our farms suffer with tick-borne fever and redwater, which are both on the increase. Luckily, we now have access to a redwater vaccine. Additionally, don’t forget fly strike prevention and monitoring.

Liver fluke is on the way to becoming a year-round problem in the South West. Now is the time to put a robust parasite control plan in place.

Many of our dairy farmers have really changed their perception of lame cows: regular mobility scoring, prompt treatment and effective control measures really pay dividends.