Cattle

Farm Cattle

Routine fertility visits

These can be done weekly, fortnightly, monthly, or as required.
Fertility work during routine visits includes:

  • Early PDs
  • Post calving checks (40 days plus)
  • Non observed oestrus
  • Repeat breeders

Dairy metabolic profiles

Metabolic profiles are the quickest, most accurate way to assess the effectiveness of a diet. Even with the most modern, well planned diets and forage analysis things won't always work out as expected. Properly pre-planned blood sampling after key changes will identify any constraint much more quickly and cost effectively than awaiting performance effects.

We use the Dairy Herd Health and Productivity Service (DHHPS) at Edinburgh University.

You can find more in depth information here.

Dry cow management

A good dry cow period leads to higher yields, increased milk protein and better fertility. Optimising dry cow management also reduces ketosis, milk fever, mastitis, lameness, retained placentas, stillbirths, displaced abomasum (LDAs) and produces better calves.

Check out the DHHPS Dry cow management checklist.

Left Displaced Abomasum (LDA)

LDAs occur when the abomasum (fourth stomach) which normally lies on the floor of the abdomen, fills with gas and rises up in the abdomen, most commonly onto the left side.

It tends to occur soon after calving and the signs are usually reduced appetite and milk drop. Sometimes mild colic, abdominal distension and scour will also be seen.

Occurence can be reduced by maintaining dry matter intakes precalving, minimising ration changes at calving and treating any diseases promptly.

Early veterinary intervention is essential to get the best recovery rates but prevention is the best approach!

LDAs — some tips to avoid them:

  • Overstocking — Freshly calved cows are less likely to compete at the feed space. Allow 30 inches of feed space per cow and 12 cubicles per 10 cows. All cows should be able to feed at the same time. Two rows of cubicles per feed space and you are probably OK, three rows and you are probably over-stocked.
  • Avoid Overcondition — Cows usually get fat because they have taken a long time to get in calf. Get repeat breeders checked sooner rather than later!
  • General Health — Cows that have milk fever, metritis, retained cleansings or lameness are all at higher risk of LDAs. Any illness should be treated promptly.
  • Overfeeding Dry Cows — Far-off dry cows should be fed just enough to hold condition. The ration needs to be properly planned; just turning them out in a field and forgetting about them is not a good idea.
  • Mixing Feed — If a transition ration is used then it must be mixed thoroughly. Straw needs to be chopped well and consistently to avoid sorting. Look at feed through the day to see if a layer of straw seems to appear on top of the feed.
  • Ration Formulation — Freshly calved cows that are put on to a high protein, very starchy TMR straight after calving tend to experience more acidosis (starch) and body condition loss (high protein). If this is done then inclusion of adequate fibre is necessary with up to 1kg of correctly chopped straw being common. Buffers may also need to be fed e.g. AcidBuf or sodium bicarb. Yeast may help also.
  • Stocking Density — Don't over-stock dry cow yards. Allow 36 inches trough space per “close up” dry cow and 1.25 m2 of lying area per 1000 litres of 305 day yield. (10m2 for 8000 litre cows) plus 2.5m2 of loafing area.
  • Changing Groups — Cows don't like change and react particularly badly if moved within two weeks of calving. If you have a far-off and close up dry cow group then cows should be moved into the close up group 3 weeks before calving.

Milk fever

Milk fever is caused by reduction in blood calcium levels. It usually occurs around calving, but can happen during lactation, particularly when bulling.

Classical cases are characterised by general muscle weakness leading to recumbency, cold extremities and death. Milder cases may result in retained placentas, metritis, LDAs and problems with future fertility.

Problems with milk fever can usually be avoided by careful attention to the mineral content of the dry cow diet.

Some different approaches to prevention can be found here.

Fluke

Liver fluke is a flat worm that lives in the liver and bile ducts once it reaches adulthood. The eggs are passed out in dung and infect snails. The larvae develop and migrate to blades of grass where they are ingested by grazing animals. The larvae and its snail host rely on a warm, moist environment to survive.

Cattle of all ages can be affected with the most acute forms of infection being seen in autumn.

As well as reducing performance, infections left unchecked can result in liver damage and death.

Signs of infection may not initially be noticeable but include:

  • Drop in growth rate.
  • Drop in fertility.
  • Pale gums.
  • Bottle jaw.

Diagnosis

  • Faecal egg counts are used to diagnose and give an idea of the scale of the problem.
  • In early acute stages fluke may not have reached adulthood so no eggs will be seen.
  • Post-mortem testing and abattoir returns can be very helpful.
  • Bulk milk testing can be used to check fluke antibody levels.

Control

Reduce the access of stock to snail habitats by improving drainage and fencing.

All mammals can be infected by fluke so sheep pose a risk to cattle and vice versa.

All purchased animals should be treated during quarantine. Use an effective flukicide and dose for the correct weights. Not all products are effective against all stages of fluke, so ensure you choose your product carefully.

Cattle treatment

  • Check if there is a problem by faecal egg counts, post-mortem testing or abattoir returns.
  • Dose against adult and immature fluke two weeks after housing.
  • If stock have been out-wintered in wet areas they may require treatment in October and January against immature fluke and a spring treatment against adult fluke.

Dairy cow treatment

  • Affected adult dairy cows will have a lower than expected milk yield, reduced butterfat, weight loss and poor fertility.
  • Bulk milk testing can be used to check fluke antibody levels.
  • Milk withhold must be considered and often means targeting treatment in the dry period.

For more information speak to one of our vets and we can help you put together a control strategy.

Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR)

IBR is a highly infectious and contagious disease of cattle. It is caused by Bovine Herpes Virus 1(BVH1). Two forms of the disease exist, the more common respiratory disease which is spread by aerosol and the genital form which is contracted venereally.

Respiratory infection is transmitted by direct contact between animals or those sharing the same air space. Once infected with BVH1, the animal will remain infected for life and are said to be latently infected. When stressed they will start shedding the virus and possibly show signs of disease. Thus all cattle in herds where IBR is endemic have the capacity to spread disease without clinical signs being present.
Signs of disease can include increased breathing rate and effort, conjunctivitis, nasal discharge, high temperature, milk drop, abortions or infertility.

Diagnosis is based on blood tests, bulk milk tests and nasal swabs.

Infected animals should be isolated from the rest of the herd and treated with anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics for secondary infections if necessary.

Carrier cattle should be identified and removal from the herd should be considered.

Prevention

A closed herd, with good biosecurity measures is best, combined with regular monitoring of herd status eg. bulk milk antibody testing.

Vaccination

Vaccination will reduce the severity of clinical disease and the amount of virus shed. It is not uncommon to see signs of IBR in a vaccinated herd, especially if approaching the end of the vaccine’s effective period.

Live Intra-nasal vaccines (Tracherine / Rispoval / Bovilis IBR Marker Live) can be given in the face of a severe disease out break.

Vaccine Protocols

  1. Tracherine (Live,non-marker)

    This should be given intranasally when herds experience severe clinical disease and followed 6 months later with two injections of Rispoval IBR inactivated vaccine given 3-5 weeks apart.

  2. Rispoval IBR-Marker Live Vaccine

    This should be given to animals showing clinical signs of IBR, in a herd that was previously naïve or heifers entering an endemic herd. It can be given intranasally or by intramuscular injection. This vaccine can be used routinely every 6 months.

  3. Rispoval IBR-Marker Inactivated Vaccine

    This vaccine is designed to be used in endemically infected herds where the amount of shedding and thus infective pressure needs to be reduced. Two injections should be given subcutaneously 3-5 weeks apart. It can also be given as a single injection 6 months after Rispoval IBR-Marker Live Vaccine and then once every 12 months.

  4. Bovilis IBR Marker Live

    This vaccine can be given intranasally or by intramuscular injection and lasts for 6 months in animals over 3 months old.

Please speak to one of our vets for more information.