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Basic hygiene should be the first line of defence

Salmonella is a winter bacteria that can affect any dairy farm. Small changes now can keep this nasty disease off the farm for the entire year.

There are many different strains of this bacterium and some can cause very bad diarrhoea and stomach cramps in humans.

In animals, the disease spectrum is very wide. Salmonella will cause anything from navel ill, scour, abortion, lameness and plenty of other less obvious diseases in between.

Again, vaccines are a vital cog in the wheel of prevention, but not before good basic hygiene practices are put in place.

Now is the time to put in a bit of elbow grease and clean out those calving pens and calf houses. Allow the walls to remain free of all organic matter such as dung and slurry marks.

Bring all surfaces back to their original material with copious use of power hosing and brushing. Bacteria can live for long periods in damp dirty corners of any sheds.

With liquid-milking herds, the calving pattern can trickle on from month to month with very little rest. This means the calf houses get no break and become fantastic havens for salmonella to multiply.

Antibiotics are a very poor part of the armoury to control this disease. Their use will lead to resistant strains of salmonella in no time at all.

We should all look upon the day that we use antibiotics to treat salmonella as the day our systems failed.

We need to move back up the line and prevent this bacterium from becoming established in the first place.

We must also vaccinate the cows to maximise immunity against an attack. Plenty of cleaning and dipping points around the yard are also necessary to prevent spread.

These footbaths should be used by anyone and everyone moving around your stock. That includes yourself and your help, as well as all visitors coming on and off the premises.

Key points

nLast winter's experience will tell you if salmonella came onto the farm. Increased vigilance is needed if your vet diagnosed any cases this spring.

nBasic hygiene is the first and best defence against salmon-ella.

nVaccination of all pregnant stock will protect the cow herself as well as boost the colostrum for the newborn calf.

nDon't forget the shared machinery that may be used to spread farmyard manure. Clean down and disinfect between farms.

nFoot dips and wash points with brushes and running water should be evident around the farm. These are most important as we move from adult pens to where younger stock are housed and vice versa.

nThe vaccine is readily available and quite inexpensive when compared to the costs involved in an outbreak.

nThe vaccine should be stored in a fridge and used in its entirety once the bottle is opened. Keeping unused vaccine in an open pack will cause vaccine breakdown.

nRepeatedly putting a needle from the bottle into an animal and back to the bottle is not good practice. Obvious contamination of the contents will occur. Better to leave a needle in the vial as each syringe dose is loaded.

Best of all is the use of a repeat-filling syringe that fills automatically as each dose is used.

Where lumps occur in cattle after vaccine use, we must consider site contamination at time of injection. This will likely mean that the vaccine has not worked.

Consult your vet and consider repeating the process once the deficiencies in the administration have been ironed out. Contaminated vaccine procedure is as bad as no vaccine at all.

nColostrum is king in prevention of this disease. Prime the colostrum with vaccination and ensure several litres are given to the calf in the early hours of life.

Indo Farming