Beating off the infection issue
Cleanliness for cow and calf is essential to prevent disease
Today's typical dairy farmer has more cows and replacements than they had 10 years ago. They are also calving cows closer to February.
Teagasc advice nowadays is to calve all cows as close together as possible and with very efficient reproduction management; at least 80pc of the cows should calve in six weeks. This kind of success rate heaps pressure on the stockman and on facilities and, unless they are well-organised with good work routines, the whole process of calving cows, moving calves and feeding them can very easily get on top of the best stockmen/women.
This can easily lead to its own problems with poorer cow and calf health resulting in increased veterinary expenses. Any dairy farmer will tell you it's the numbers that are the problem. The real problem is the sick cow, the sick calf or the groups of calves with scour. These issues can make for very long days and nights on the dairy farm.
There is a range of infectious agents -- bacteria, viruses and parasites -- that do battle with our stock. In reply, the animal has two major defence mechanisms. Physical defence -- the skin -- is the best example. If the infection manages to penetrate the physical defences of an animal, its cellular defences come into play. Included here would be the white blood cells that come out to attack an infection, such as mastitis.
So, how does one eliminate or minimise the problems caused by sick animals this spring? Let's start with the calving facilities first. Calving is the most critical time of a cow's life. Cows must calve down in a clean environment.
Aidan Brennan, the farm manager at the Curtin's Farm in Moorepark, tells me that they have two long calving boxes bedded with straw. Straw is added every day and the calving boxes are cleaned out and disinfected every 10 days. The calving boxes are right beside the cubicle house.
At the entrance to the calving pen is a table which contains the following essential pieces of equipment: A box of arm-length gloves, a box of hand gloves, paper towels, a dispenser with soap detergent, lubrication and a tap with running water.
Important pieces of equipment, such as the calving ropes, are left immersed in a gallon of water, which has been treated with dettol. A cover is placed over the bucket to ensure no dirt gets into it. The calving jack is also to be found here.