Vet Watch: a round-up of key veterinary issues

Bill Main, Belmont Vets

We are seeing many displaced abomasums in our dairy herds this spring. A major issue has been over fat cows, which then have significantly reduced dry matter intakes after calving. Often these cows have had extended lactations due to failing to get in calf early and have been relatively overfed when stale and have become too fat. Combined with insufficient DMI in the six weeks before calving due to inadequately presented dry cow rations, this has led to these cows developing fatty liver and other health issues, compounded on some farms with problems with milk fever.

Maximising the dry matter intakes of dry cows is vital with plenty of well presented, accessible, palatable and low energy dense feed available to them. A simple cheap blood ketone test is available which allows us to assess how successfully the dry period has been if used to test cows in the first fortnight after calving.

Caroline Hall, Parklands

I saw a heifer recently with excessive salivation, high temperature (41.5C) and blowing. She was dull and not eating, so was treated for pneumonia with anti-inflammatories and antibiotics. About four days later, she had become worse. Her temperature was 42C, the salivation was more pronounced, and her eyes were opaque causing restricted vision. She was showing nervous signs by moving her head in a strange way and her mouth was extremely inflamed. There was bloody diarrhoea and the right horn tip was falling off. From these signs it was obvious something more sinister was going on. I diagnosed malignant catarrhal fever (MCF) which was later confirmed at the lab. In this country, cattle become infected from sheep carrying a herpes virus, with an incubation period of between 18 and 38 days. Sheep themselves show no clinical signs, but in cattle, the disease is severe and fatal, with no cure.

Tony Kemmish, St Boniface

It is really encouraging to see so many clients engaging with our vets to deal with Johne’s disease. Every farm has a very different Johne’s status so there is no “one size fits all,” approach. Understanding the current farm situation is critical in formulating a bespoke plan to control the disease.

For some, the plan may be as simple as improved biosecurity and ongoing monitoring. For others, removal of calves at birth, careful colostrum management and even colostrum pasteurisation may need to be considered. There is no doubt that Johne’s can have a considerable financial impact on both dairy and beef units. An effective control plan is essential to anyone breeding cattle.

The ongoing South West Healthy Livestock project has allowed farms in our region to look into problems including Johne’s, BVD, mastitis and lameness at a significantly reduced cost. I would encourage anyone farming in the southwest to talk to their vet about the project or check the SWHLI website.

Roger Scott, Hexham Vets

After the driest and warmest lambing season the North has possibly ever had, and with an already buoyant feel to it, the local sheep industry entered the summer on the crest of a wave with NSA North Sheep. It is a huge credit to this great and ancient industry that an event based on one species alone can attract 9,000 visitors in a quiet corner of Northumberland on what was not the sunniest or warmest of days.

On the XLVets stand the focus of the day was farmer training through the Farmskills project. A light-hearted taster was given in the form of teaching farmers to juggle (which of course we all know they do on a regular basis anyway) and how to make a halter from a length of rope. Sadly that was “teaching Granny to suck eggs” and the fact we weren’t splicing them meant they just weren’t good enough. Education is a two-way process.

See more