Katharine Blease, Bishopton Veterinary Group
Are you still waiting for “spring”-calving cows to calve? Do you know the BVD status of your herd? Infection with BVD virus can have a major impact on calving pattern. Clinical signs are usually slight, but these animals will often have poor conception rates or early embryonic losses causing a prolonged calving interval. We have been running a pilot study to control BVD on 20 of our farms in Nidderdale. The first step to control BVD is to establish your status by blood testing a small group of young stock, +/- bulk milk sampling. Once your status is known, a farm-specific plan can be used to look at ways to reduce the spread of infection within the herd, find and remove persistently infected animals and, importantly, prevent entry of infection. By farmers working together, in conjunction with their vets, it is hoped we can eradicate this disease.
Roel Driesen, MacPherson O’Sullivan vets
“And in the summer we just stick the heifers with a bull.” Like many farm vets, we spend most of our time dealing with cows and young calves. However, a lot of farm profit disappears into the animals that do not see the vet so often, such as the breeding heifers. The average age at first calving on UK dairy farms varies from about 740 days to more than a thousand days. This is not only a huge loss in increased rearing cost and reduced lifetime yield, but DairyCo figures show that older heifers at calving are more likely than younger ones to have left the herd at five years old. Speaking to your vet about having a clear plan for breeding heifers at the right size and the right age can save farms a small fortune for very little extra input.
Tom Felton, Friars Moor Vets
In recent weeks I have seen more cases of New Forest eye/pink eye/infectious keratoconjunctivitis in both cattle and sheep. This painful condition affects primarily younger stock and causes excess tear production, squinting, inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis) and cloudy eyes (corneal opacity). The recent increase of cases coincides with our seasonal increase of flies, dust, thistles, long grass and UV light, causing physical damage to the eye and predisposing animals to bacterial infection. Flies also spread bacteria between the groups.
Caught early, treatment with topical antibiotics can be adequate. However, in severe cases with corneal ulceration, it is advised to seek vet treatment with drugs injected into the conjunctiva, and in some cases systemically too. Increasing trough space, isolating affected individuals and appropriate fly control can all help minimise spread in the group. Avoidance of watercourses, woodland and other known fly areas will help minimise risk, as will fly traps to reduce fly populations and topping of pasture.
Ben Pedley, Willows Veterinary Group
This bizarre weather pattern of a dry spring followed by rain and showers in the last few weeks has brought about a real mix of diseases and conditions. We have seen a case of “milk fever-like” downer cows that had grazed a rather sparse re-seed, but which had a plentiful growth of Fat Hen weed amongst it. Some of the mid-lactation cows, after eating off the grass, ate most of the Fat Hen and went down. After treatment for milk fever, they responded well. After googling Fat Hen, we established that it contains oxalates which, when eaten, bind calcium – hence the milk-fever-like appearance. The power of the internet! Other cases seen include the usual summer mastitis and New Forest Eye, as the flies get up and running. Another farm had fly bites around the head and neck of some cows that were so severe the cows couldn’t bend there necks down to graze. Get those flies under control.