Business Farming

Thursday 2 October 2014

Teamwork is the key to hitting herd health targets

Peadar Ó Scanaill

Published 15/07/2014 | 02:30

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Herd health: Parasite control is vital at this time of year and getting your planning right now will help to prevent issues arising during the summer months

THE cattle are enjoying a perfect summer of excellent grass growth and now is a good time to take stock of a few items on grassland parasite control.

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The recent Teagasc open-day at Grange on grassland beef was interesting indeed. The feedback from all quarters about the section on cattle diseases and their control was especially noteworthy. The questions were flying thick and fast, with deep interest by farmers in what the veterinary experts had to say. Some of the topics covered are outlined below.

Herd Health Planning

Traditionally, the farmer was largely dependant on the vet for calvings, lambings, diagnostics and treatment. The herd health approach finds the farmer, vet and other advisors working together to achieve common goals of disease prevention, including sub-clinical disease.

Currently, in addition to managing sick animals or difficult calvings, the advisory role is facilitated by a solution-orientated approach during which goals are set and progress monitored.

So we focus on key areas that affect profit on the beef farm such as fertility, calf health and parasite control.

Clinical and obstetrical skills and services are the foundation of veterinary practice.

However, vets have an opportunity to use these cases as "gateway diseases" to uncover subclinical issues affecting health and performance.

Target setting and monitoring are the key to a vibrant dynamic effort to improve the health of the herd. To be really relevant to the needs of the client, monitoring of the following herd health parameters is important:

  • Pregnancy scanning (fertlilty)
  • ZST testing for colostrum intake; ventilation tests (smoke bombs) (calf health)
  • Fluke and worm faecal testing (parasite control)
  • Nasal swabbing, baermann technique (respiratory disease management)
  • Body condition scoring (nutrition and fertility)

Clinical signs of liver fluke

If animals have significant clinical signs such as diarrhoea, bottle jaw and weight loss with anaemia, this may represent the tip of the iceberg. We will see significant illthrift and loss of feed conversion and production in other animals.

Update on Rumen Fluke

Recent research by Animal Health Ireland has shown that the species of rumen fluke in Ireland may also use the mud snail as its host. This means that flooding of pasture is not required for the rumen fluke life cycle to be completed.

It is likely that it is the immature fluke in the small intestine that cause the real damage. Rumen fluke should be considered in stubborn cases of diarrhoea in cattle.

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