Vet Viewpont: Advice for calving and lambing

As lambing and calving gets underway vets from across the UK offer some advice on how to deal with common newborn health issues in this month’s round up Vet Viewpoint.

As well as offering advice on how to tackle scours, one Orkney vet talks about what actions can be taken to reduce calving difficulties while another offers some tips on how to deal with the Starling invasion.

See also: Vet Viewpoint: Schmallenberg causes problems in the South West  

Chris Woodroff

Chris Woodroff

Chris Woodroff

Severn Edge Veterinary Group, Bridgnorth, Shropshire

We often see cases of scouring in lambs after turnout in the spring. More often than not it is lush spring grass that is the cause, but it can just as likely be caused by coccidiosis or nematodirus.

Cocci build-up in heavily stocked areas can overcome the normal immunity in lambs, leading to scouring and occasional death.

Nematodirus will be present in greater numbers in warm weather following a cold snap and while some scouring is seen, death is common.

Rapid diagnosis of scouring and sudden deaths in young lambs – housed or at grass – can lead to effective treatments for this year and preventative measures for the next.

Andy Cant

Andy Cant

Andy Cant

Northvet Veterinary Group, Orkney 

Here we go again for another calving season. Up here in Orkney we peak in March and April. It is a critical control point  – we want a live calf, full of vigour with a good immune system.

Abnormally small pelvic areas in heifers is one cause of dystocia. We now offer a pelvimetry service to our clients to screen heifers before going to the bull – this has already weeded out a few potential problems for next year and could have perhaps prevented the caesarian I was doing the other night.

As for immunity, remember calves are born with none and are dependent on receiving immunoglobulins in colostrum to protect them in the first weeks of life.

The mantra is 3 litres in the first six hours and a clean, dry calving pen.

Phil Dawber

Phil Dawber

Phil Dawber

Kernow Farm and Equine, Cornwall

Many farms are dealing with an invasion of starlings. They eat the cattle feed, spread diseases and make a mess.

As a result, you can see a reduction in milk yield and bulling behaviour, and an increase in scouring.  

Bird scarers can be used, but varying the bird calls every few weeks is important to prevent them becoming ineffective. Starlings roost in huge flocks at night, so by feeding TMR in the hours of darkness, the birds won’t be around to eat it before the cattle.

Maize silage is a favourite, which can be fed at night rather than including in TMR, while other units feed it under the grass silage to hide it from the birds.

If all else fails, feed an extra 5% to compensate till the starlings leave, and add molasses to increase feed intakes.

Dan King

Dan King

Dan King

Bishopton Veterinary Group, North Yorkshire

Calf scour outbreaks are multifactorial and are usually the result of an environmental build-up of bugs and low calf immunity.

Everything that can be done to keep the environment dry and clean is essential, along with adequate biosecurity.

The key element to strong immunity is good colostrum. Dairy cow colostrum quality should be measured at every collection and if it doesn’t hit the mark, supplementation with high-quality colostrum is required.

We routinely monitor calf immunity by taking blood samples from calves between one day to one week old and run serum protein tests at the practice. These results are available that day and show whether the calves have adequate immunity.