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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