Vet Watch: a round-up of key veterinary issues

Philip Abernethy, Parklands Veterinary Group

I am often presented with cases of calves that are under two weeks of age and suffering with diarrhoea, which the farmer says is non-responsive to antibiotics. One possible cause is cryptosporidium. This is a protozoa that the calf ingests from the environment. Older calves are immune to the effects and act as carriers. Neonatal calves are susceptible and present with white diarrhoea, depression and weight loss, with secondary infections such as pneumonia common.

Take a faecal sample to your vet for diagnosis as there is a specific treatment needed for cryptosporidium. Antibiotics can be given in case of other infections and rehydration may be needed. In terms of control – only batch calves with the same age group, if not alone, avoid faecal contamination of food sources, regularly put down clean bedding and adopt an “all in, all out” movement policy. Only ammonia based disinfectants will kill cryptosporidium.

Andrew Moss, Rutland Veterinary Centre

Recently, we have seen several unusual problems associated with nutrition. First, a group of finishing lambs fed on grass and strip grazing standing wheat. Several of these animals died suddenly and post mortem revealed liver abscesses and markedly reduced rumen pH. It seems these animals had gorged themselves on just the wheat head and had rumenal acidosis.

On the dairy side, we have seen a number of cows with displaced abomasums (DA) very late in their lactation. All four herds have recently introduced this year’s conserved forage due to lack of grass this summer and this sudden diet change seems to have caused the problem.

Every year we are running more farmer training in basic vet procedures. These popular courses develop hands on farm vet skills. A couple of the unusual late lactation DAs were diagnosed by the farmers themselves who had been on the course.

Bryony Williams, Calweton Veterinary Group

Our thoughts are moving on to the housing period and being one step ahead of the game in terms of calf pneumonia. We are busy organising farmer meetings to teach the need for a co-ordinated approach to tackle this costly disease.

Pneumonia is a complex disease, with many factors increasing a calf’s susceptibility to the viruses and bacteria, which damage the lungs. Stress from dehorning/castrating, mixing groups and ages reduces the defence mechanisms, and poor ventilation, draughts, dust and damp can create an overwhelming challenge.

Every farm is unique, and all of these issues need to be addressed to reduce pneumonia incidence; prevention is better than cure as even mild cases will reduce growth rates. This is before the cost of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and deaths are considered.

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