IN CONTROL – DAIRY FARMER SHARES HIS EXPERIENCE TACKLING CALF SCOUR

We caught up with Michael Clarke to see how he got on tackling cryptosporidium on his dairy farm during the spring of 2020.

“We got great results with little or no sick days. We went 100% by the book and did what we were meant to. Last Spring, we gave it to calves from the first day of the calving season, on day one of the calf’s life. We continued giving it to the calf for the full 7 days after feeding and that’s the reason we got such good results” said Michael

The Westmeath dairy farmer had a bad run with cryptosporidium some years ago. “It was a nightmare. It involved shocking work over two to three weeks, keeping calves alive through feeding electrolytes and water – not to mention the cost of treatment and the loss of a few calves.”

Lynn and Michael Clarke.  All calves are being treated with the oral solution for the treatment and prevention of diarrhoea caused by Cryptosporidium parvum 

Cryptosporidiosis is one of the main causes of scour in calves less than two weeks of age. Caused by the parasite Cryptosporidium parvum, it results in acute scour and abdominal pain.

“We had the first outbreak in 2018. It didn’t hit until around the 7th of March when most of the cows had calved.

“In 2019, it came much earlier – around the 22nd of February. This was right in the middle of calving. Intervention came too late” said Michael.

At one stage, his vet John Moore had to put eight calves on a drip. Four of them died. “The labour and the cost was horrendous” said Michael

It was after this episode that Michael decided, following the advice of John Moore, that to get on top of cryptosporidiosis all calves must receive the oral solution from birth.

Oral solution

As soon as cryptosporidiosis was diagnosed in 2018, John Moore prescribed the oral solution which is licensed for the treatment and prevention of diarrhoea caused by Cryptosporidium parvum. Containing the active ingredient Halofuginone lactate, it is available only on veterinary prescription.

  • As a treatment, it should be given to calves within 24 hours after the onset of diarrhoea, once a day for seven consecutive days. Make sure calves are fully hydrated before treating them with the oral solution.
  • As a prevention, it should be given to every calf 24 to 48 hours after birth, once a day after milk feeding for seven consecutive days.

Learning From The Past

Michael Clarke administered the oral solution in 2018 and 2019, only after the first calves were diagnosed with cryptosporidium in each of these years.

“Last year, we didn’t wait for the disease to hit. Instead, we started the programme at the beginning of the calving season. Calves received their first dose the day after birth for seven days.”

The Clarkes are very diligent in their calf rearing practices. Calves are given plenty of colostrum within a few hours of birth and close attention is paid to nutrition levels and to bedding, hygiene and ventilation. This demonstrates that even with good management, cryptosporidiosis is an ever–present risk.

“It’s a must to have your sheds properly power washed and disinfected before calving starts. Previous years, I wasn’t using the product correctly either. I wouldn’t have finished the treatment course and then problems start arising. Three to four weeks into calving, the disease pressure is at its highest and there’re a lot of calves on the ground. So last year, we cleaned out the calf shed every 10 days but didn’t power wash or disinfect as we didn’t have time to let the sheds dry. That, along with the treatment and good management was effective at keeping the disease at bay” said Michael

Michael saw fantastic results in controlling cryptosporidiosis however some calves started to show positive signs of rotavirus around 4 weeks into the calving season.

“When the calves got a heavy infection of cryptosporidium in 2019, I decided to drop the scour vaccine last year. This resulted in the calves getting a touch of rotavirus at around day 18 of the calving season. I talked to John (vet) and we decided that we would vaccinate the cows with the scour vaccine again this year and protect the calves against cryptosporidium from the start of calving season. I get great peace of mind with this broad range of cover” said Michael

Veterinary practitioner John Moore.

Disease Can Get Out of Control

Veterinary practitioner John Moore said where cryptosporidiosis is a problem on a farm the use of the oral solution should be a critical component of the prevention programme. “All calves should be treated daily from 24 to 48 hours old for seven consecutive days.

“Because the disease hits so fast, it can get out of control before the farmer has time to take action. Mortality can be high and even when calves survive, thrive can be severely affected.”

“While the oral solution is not cheap, its use as a prevention is a more economical option than the massive labour, stress and cost involved in treating sick calves as well as the potential losses from dead calves and poor thrive in those that survive,” he stressed.

He highlighted the importance of strictly following the instructions on the use of the oral solution. “Dosage levels should correspond to the weight of the calf and when used as a treatment, make sure the calf is fully hydrated and bright before use.”

Millions of Oocysts

As part of its life cycle, Cryptosporidium parvum produces huge numbers of encysted eggs, or oocysts, which are shed in the faeces of infected calves, cows or other animals.

At peak shedding there may be as many as 10 million oocysts per gram or faeces. It takes as few as 20 of these to cause disease in young, susceptible calves.

Typically, clinical signs appear in calves from 5 to 14 days old. These can vary greatly – from mild diarrhoea to severe, watery scours and eventually death. Calves become rapidly dehydrated and suffer loss of appetite.

Period of rapid expansion

The Clarkes converted to dairying in 2010. They ran a suckler herd of 100 cows and bought in around 140 weanling bulls. There was also a flock of 100 ewes.

They bought 200,000l of quota under the new entrant scheme and started off milking 48 heifers.

Last year, they milked 270 cows. This year, they will calve 280 cows and plan to milk around 260. The remainder are being sold as in-calf heifers.

“Our plan was to milk 120 cows. But a neighboring farm of 114 acres came up for lease and we decided to go for it. An additional 50 acres also became available and we leased that too,” said Michael.


Teagasc Masters Walsh Scholarship Opportunity

An exciting opportunity has emerged for one candidate to apply for a two year Masters program. Please see full spec of the Masters in the below document. The study is titled; Multivacc: Demonstration of safety and sero-conversion post concurrent administration of RSP Live & IBR Marker Live vaccines in calves.

Please send CVs to emer.kennedy@teagasc.ie or catherine.mcaloon@ucd.ie. Closing date for application is this week with interviews to follow soon after. Start date is immediate.


2020 Virtual Farmers Journal Dairy Day

This year, the Farmers Journal #DairyDay will be held virtually on Tuesday the 24th of November. The virtual event is divided into three different sessions which can be viewed for free at here

2020 Dairy Day

As we move into the winter months, it’s a great time to reassess the herds winter vaccination plans prior to calving next spring. MSD Animal Health advise that a month pre-calving is a good time to give a booster shot of Bovilis IBR Marker Live.

The Bovilis IBR Marker Live 12-month vaccine protocol. Consult with your vet to access if this protocol is suitable for your herd.

Also, the time for scour vaccination is soon approaching. Remember, vaccinate cows & heifers 12 to 3 weeks prior to calving to provide passive protection to calves through colostrum feeding against three common causes of scour. For more information on winter vaccination, talk to your vet.

See some of our product and disease brochures below. If you have any questions, please contact your local vet to discuss in more detail.


Footrot vaccination a big success on Roscommon sheep farm

Vaccination as part of the strategy to control footrot has meant ewes with more milk, better lamb thrive and more lambs sold for Roscommon farmer Joseph Kennedy.

On the advice of his veterinary practitioner, Donal Flynn of All Creatures Veterinary Clinic, Joseph introduced vaccination as part of a strategic footrot control plan five years ago.

“I had a serious lameness problem. The labour and time involved in treating lame sheep was very high. Fertility in affected sheep wasn’t what it should be and I had regular problems with ewes with twin lamb disease,” said Joseph.

There has been a big reduction in lameness and the use of antibiotics to treat lame sheep. Overall, there has been a massive improvement in sheep productivity.

Joseph runs a flock of 80 ewes and 25 replacement ewe lambs at Weakfield, Co. Roscommon.

The commercial flock of Rouge/Texel crosses has scanned at an average of 2.2 in recent years. He is also a pure-bred Rouge breeder and there is strong local and regional demand for his rams.

Campaign

Joseph is participating in a national information and awareness campaign run by XLVets on the benefits of vaccination as part of a strategic plan to control footrot. The campaign is run in association with MSD Animal Health, manufacturers of the only vaccine licensed for the control of footrot.

Michael Keaveney, who farms at nearby Athleague, visited Joseph Kennedy’s farm with veterinary practitioner Donal Flynn to hear Joseph’s story on the benefits of vaccination.

Michael farms in partnership with his father Liam in the village of Roundforth. They have a flock of just over 200 ewes. Ewe lambs are reared on the farm and those not needed for replacements are sold as ewe hoggets for breeding.

Persistent problem

In common with a large number of sheep farmers, the Keaveneys have a big problem with lameness.

“We footbath regularly and we treat all serious cases with an injectable antibiotic and an antibiotic spray. But the problem is still persisting.

“We still have up to 10% of our sheep lame at any one time. Lamb thrive is not what it should be and the time and labour involved in treating lame sheep is huge,” said Michael.

Joseph Kennedy outlined his footrot control strategy including vaccination when the ewes are housed. While he got a response in the first year after vaccination, he said he could definitely see a big response after the second year.

The body condition of the ewes and the excellent lamb performance on the Kennedy farm were aspects that particularly impressed Michael Keaveney.

Last year, Joseph Kennedy had twin lambs fit for sale at 12-13 weeks of age and the small number of singles were fit at 10 weeks, evidence of the excellent performance achieved.

Discussion

Michael is now having a discussion with Donal Flynn on the benefits of vaccination as part of the footrot control strategy.

According to Donal, vaccination as part of a rigid control strategy will be cost effective.

“As well as lifting productivity and greatly reducing labour, vaccination also helps to reduce antibiotic use, a very important consideration in the current climate of concern about over- use of antibiotics.”

Footrot and scald the major causes

According to Donal Flynn, footrot and scald account for 90% of lameness in sheep. CODD (Contagious Ovine Digital Dermatitis) accounts for 5% and the remaining 5% is the result of other causes, including strawberry foot, shelly hoof and abscesses.

“The first step in tackling lameness is to correctly identify the cause of the problem. Misdiagnosis and wrong treatment can often make the problem worse.

“It will pay to get your vet to carry out a detailed inspection, identify the bugs and prescribe the most effective treatment and control strategy,” he stressed.

He said footrot which is caused by two different bacteria is highly infectious. Housing, collection yards, gateways, wet areas and supplementary feeding areas are heavy sources of infection.

Every time a lame sheep takes a step a deposit of the bacteria is left behind and other sheep are at risk of infection. Sheep do not acquire immunity to infection.

Impact

“A productive sheep flock should have a scanning rate of 2.0, a weaning rate of 1.75, a target liveweight gain in lambs of 300g/day and ewe mortality of less than 2%.

“Lameness plays havoc with these key performance indicators. It depresses fertility, leads to higher incidence of twin lamb disease and results in ewes with poor colostrum and lower milk yield.

“The end result is lower lamb performance and the risk of increased ewe and lamb mortality not to mention the heavy financial and labour costs of treating infected sheep.”

Five Point Footrot Control Plan

Donal Flynn said that farmers who have adopted the following five point footrot control plan have achieved good success in greatly reducing lameness and improving overall sheep health and performance.

“But it requires a change of mindset on the part of farmers and a 100% commitment to all aspects of the plan if good success in controlling lameness is to be achieved.”

  1. Treat All clinical cases should be treated promptly and effectively, including the use of an injectable antibiotic as well as a localised antibiotic spray. Paring of hooves should be kept to the absolute minimum. It can delay recovery and can even make the problem worse.
  2. Quarantine – All lame sheep should be isolated from the flock and treated accordingly. Keep bought-in sheep separate for at least 21 days.
  3. Avoid Spread – Regular and proper footbathing helps to reduce the spread of the disease. Spreading lime at gateways and around feed troughs can also be helpful.
  4. Cull – Some sheep are chronic carriers and will not respond to treatment. They are a continuing source of infection and should be culled. Donal recommends a two strike policy – if the sheep fails to respond to two treatments, cull it.
  5. Vaccinate – Donal stated that where footrot is affecting 5% of the flock, vaccination of the entire flock, in conjunction with the other four measures, is highly cost effective.

The best time to vaccinate is around a month before the start of the breeding season or before sheep are housed for the winter. Do not vaccinate within four weeks before and after lambing or within at least six weeks prior to shearing.”

“The primary vaccination course consists of two injections six weeks apart. In areas of constant disease challenge, re-vaccination should take place every six months.”


Virtual Tour: Is Your Shed Ready For Housing?

See below, a virtual tour of a Teagasc shed. On the tour, we draw your attention to different areas which ensure optimal living conditions for the animals.


Bedding & Animal Space

When housing cattle, it is important to allow enough space for each animal to feed, drink and rest stress free. Animals of various sizes will have different space requirements. Always ensure that there is adequate bedding of clean, dry straw available during the housing period. Sheds should be bedded regularly to keep moisture levels low. To check, kneel in bedding for approximately 1 minute. If your knees are wet, the shed needs to be freshly bedded. The objective of bedding is to keep the animal clean and dry. Space requirement varies depending on shed type and the animal type. A suckler cow on straw will typically need 4 to 5 m2 of bedding space and weanlings on slats will need between 2 to 2.5 m2. For further information accommodation requirements see figure 1.

Figure 1: Winter accommodation for beef animals

Feed Space

When housing cattle this autumn, it is important that all bedding from the previous year has been removed and the shed has been thoroughly cleaned. All areas of the shed including the feeding area should be power washed and adequately disinfected from the previous year. Feed space requirements depend on the feed availability. A general rule of thumb is to ensure each animal can feed at the same time. Typically, a suckler cow requires a feed space of 600 mm with space for two cows to pass behind. Diagonal barriers have the advantage of less bullying and reduce the amount of feed taken into the pen. Allow for the bottom rail when deciding the height of the stub wall. The animal’s neck should not normally come in contact with the top rail with diagonal feed barriers. See figure 2 below for further animal space requirements.

Figure 2: Winter accommodation for beef animals

Ventilation

The objective of shed design is to ensure adequate air flow on a still day and to shelter animals on a day of high wind speeds. While this is possible for newly built sheds, older sheds may not be able to provide this function and rely on the stack effect. The stack effect is where the heat generated by animals in the building rises and is replaced by fresh air coming in at a lower level of the shed (above the wall, under the eaves or through the side sheeting/boarding). See figure 3 which illustrates this process.

Figure 3
Ventilation Calculations – Inlets and Outlets

The rate of ventilation is influenced by the size of the openings, the roof pitch and the difference between inlets and outlets. As a general rule of thumb, the inlet should be at least twice the size of the outlet. When designing a new building or improving an old one, it is important to calculate the area of outlet required in a roof to allow heat and moisture from the livestock to escape by natural convection. If making improvements to shed ventilation, inlet and outlet areas should be at least brought up to the sizes outlined in the DAFM specification S101. When considering inlet sheeting/boarding it is important to look at the function of each option. In certain situations either due to the layout or situation of a farm building, natural ventilation might be inadequate. In this instance, mechanical ventilation could be considered. You should consult with your agricultural consultant for the best advice on which sheeting/boarding to use which will depend on the prevailing wind direction, type of animal and number of animals to be housed in the shed.

Outlets
  • Ensure the outlet area is clean and clear.
  • General required outlet sizes can be seen in figure 4. These figures can be modified based on stocking densities and roof pitch.
Figure 4
Inlets
  • Inlets should be provided beneath eaves using either a continuous opening, louvered sheeting, plastic mesh, or space boarding.
  • The inlet area should be at twice the size of the outlet area to create a natural air flow.

Water Access

Clean water access is a primary requirement of all animal housing and must be available at all times. It is important that the location and height of the trough can accommodate all animals in that shed. Water is frequently spilt around water feeders. Ensure that the area around the feeder is well drained and any spilt water can drain away from the bedding area. Avoid placing feeders in areas where spilt water will pool creating flooded areas of the shed. Aim to give access to 10% of the group to drink at any one time. Animal water intake depends on the age and stage of lactation. See figure 5 for more detail

Figure 5

For further information regarding sheds modifications talk to you vet, your agricultural consultant or visit the Teagasc webpage through the link here.

Source:

  1. Ryan, T. & Lenehan, JJ. 2016 – Winter accommodation for beef animals Teagasc beef manual
  2. Anon 2013. – Calf house ventilation – The basics MSD Animal Health

Suckler farmer adopts vaccination option under BEEP-S


Suckler farmer Dara Walton has chosen vaccination as an optional measure under the Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme-Sucklers (BEEP-S)

Dara Walton is well known in the beef farming community and indeed wider circles as one of the top performing beef herds in the country. He runs a herd of 60 spring-calving cows at Cappagh, Callan.  The farm straddles the Kilkenny-Tipperary border.  All progeny are reared to beef.

Dara Walton stands among his top performing beef herd located in Callen, Kilkenny

As part of the BEEP-S and to enhance the health of his stock, all weanlings are given their primary shot of Bovilis® Bovipast RSP around six weeks before they are housed. They get the booster shot four weeks later, along with a single shot of Bovilis IBR Marker Live.  They are housed for the winter two weeks later.

Bovilis® Bovipast RSP contains IRP technology and provides broad protection against bacterial pneumonia caused by the bacteria Mannheimia (Pasteurella) haemolytica as well as the two main viruses, RSV (Bovine Respiratory Syncytial virus) and PI3 virus (Parainfluenza 3 virus).  It is given under the skin.

As well as getting an additional BEEP-S payment of €30/calf, vaccination gives him the security and peace of mind of knowing that his valuable weanlings are protected against the major pneumonia threats.

Dara graduated from UCD with a degree in agricultural science in 2005.  He combined farming with an off-farm job for the first 11 years after graduation. Since he started farming full-time, he has expanded the suckler herd from 50 to 60 cows.

The cows are mainly Limousin and Simmental cross with a bit Parthenaise.  All replacements are home-bred and the aim is to have a breeding herd of three-quarters Limousin.  Breeding is currently 60% AI with a stock Limousin and Charolais bull.

Dairy calf to beef

He has also developed and expanded a dairy calf to beef enterprise.  This year he reared 60 calves, 40 Friesian bulls and 20 Angus and Hereford heifers. They were bought from his brother Pat, who runs a dairy farm next door. They were reared in three batches, starting in early February.

With around 250 animals to be managed and fed, he is facing into a busy winter.  This year has also been a little busier on the home front for Dara and his wife Muireann, a public health nurse. Their daughter Eloise was born 13 months ago.

His parents Tommy and Patricia live in the family home beside the farmyard. A sprightly 89-year old, Tommy still plays an active and helpful role.

Herd IBR vaccination programme in place

Dara Walton operates a whole herd IBR (Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis) vaccination programme for the past number of years.

All calves were vaccinated intramuscularly with Bovilis® IBR Marker Live about four weeks before they are housed. Now, they are vaccinated approximately two weeks prior to housing at the same time the booster shot of Bovipast RSP is administered.

All breeding stock are given an annual booster shot of Bovilis® IBR Marker Live prior to housing.

The recent granting of a 12-months immunity license for Bovilis® IBR Marker Live greatly simplifies the IBR vaccination programme for farmers like Dara.

IBR is a highly infectious disease and almost three-quarters of all suckler and dairy herds are known to be positive to the IBR virus.

He started putting jackets on the calves last year and finds them a great benefit in health and performance.  He also shaves the backs and tails of every animal at housing.  He finds it a big help in avoiding respiratory problems.

Top performance from excellent grass management

Excellent grass and top class grass management are the hallmarks of Dara Walton’s beef production system.

He won the Zurich/Farming Independent Beef Farmer of the Year award in 2019, in recognition of his skills and performance across all aspects of beef production.

The entire farm has been reseeded over the past 12 years and the results are visible in leafy grazing paddocks with plenty of clover.  He is faming 42ha of owned and 12 ha of rented land, which is used for two cuts of silage and grazing at the shoulders.

His target is to average 1kg/day gain from grass across all animals over the grazing season.  This year the continental yearlings gained 1.5kg/day from March to July and the Friesian steers averaged 1.2kg. 

While gains have gone back a bit since July, he is confident he will exceed the kilo/day target.  Performance is continually monitored through regular weighing.

Creep grazing

Calves are forward creep grazed ahead of the cows to ensure they get the most nutritious grass and achieve top performance. 

When bull beef became “a recipe for losing money” he went back to steer beef three years ago.  Steers are finished at 21-24 months and heifers at around 20 months.

Most of the finishing cattle are now housed and are getting around 7kg of concentrate. Finished heifers will be sold in about a month and he hopes to have most of the steers gone by Christmas.

Silage

Dara regards excellent quality silage as vital to the economics of his system.  Last year’s silage had a DMD of 78%.  This meant that no concentrate was fed to weanlings over the winter.

“I had 110 weanlings last winter and feeding them 2kg/day would have cost me €6,000.  While the Friesian steers were a bit scrawny going to grass, I got great compensatory growth and they averaged 1.2kg/day up to July,” he said.

The quality of this year’s silage is back a bit, at 71-75DMD.  He will probably have to feed the weanlings around a kilo/day of a high protein ration to keep them on a good growth curve.

The bucket-reared calves are fed meal for about two weeks after they are weaned off milk replacer.  They are then on high quality grass only for the rest of the grazing season.

Economics

Even with doing everything right, Dara Walton is frustrated with the economic viability of beef production.

“Price is the determining issue.  At €3.60-€3.65/kg, the economics just don’t stack up.  The price would need to be in the €3.90-€3.95 range for me to get a viable income and return on my labour and investment.”


Sheep Lameness – Underlying issue to reduced performance?

Introduction

Lame sheep are a cost to any farm business due to the costs associated with treatment, control and loss of productivity.

When compared to a normal ewe, lame ewes can have:

  • 15% lower conception rate,
  • 20% decrease in body condition score
  • 20% lower lambing percentage
  • Lower ewe survival
  • Poor lamb survival
  • Reduced growth rate in lambs born to lame ewes
  • Fewer lambs sold finished

To treat effectively it is important that a correct diagnosis is made to identify the cause of lameness affecting each ewe. The three most common causes of lameness in sheep are bacterial infections of the skin and hoof: scald, foot rot and contagious ovine digital dermatitis (CODD).

Misdiagnosis leads to mistreatment

Causes and Clinical Signs

Bacteria that affect the skin and hoof are normally found in the digestive tract of animals. Virulent strains of Dichelobacter nodosus, the primary cause of foot rot in sheep, are maintained in the flock by both lame and recovered carrier sheep. 90% of lameness is caused by scald and foot rot.

Scald

Scald is the term given to inflamed or reddened skin between the digits. The horn is usually unaffected. A damp environment predisposes sheep to developing scald. Wet grass or moisture between the toes leads to an impairment of the defence properties of the skin which normally acts as a barrier to infection.

Bacteria which can be found on the surface of normal feet, Fusobacterium necrophorum, invade the skin when wet, resulting in damage. The interdigital skin can appear red and swollen or grey. Lameness is usually mild and resolves when underfoot conditions improve. In the meantime, however, the damaged skin can allow entry of other potentially harmful bacteria such as the agent causing foot rot, Dichelobacter nodosus.

Foot rot

There are two forms of foot rot, benign and virulent. Benign foot rot is caused by certain strains of Dichelobacter nodosus that are less damaging than the strains that cause virulent foot rot.

The initial damage done to the skin by Fusobacterium necrophorum resulting in scald can allow the entry of bacteria that cause foot rot. This leads to further damage of the soft tissue underlying the hoof resulting in foot rot. Often more than one foot can be affected.

Virulent foot rot results in severe horn separation and the formation of a foul-smelling discharge.

Dichelobacter nodosus bacteria survives in the feet of lame sheep or recovered carrier animals. They can live in wet, muddy environments for approximately four days. During the grazing season, survival is enhanced by wet lush pastures. At housing, damp underfoot conditions improve transmission from either lame or recovered carrier animals to sound ewes.

Contagious Ovine Digital Dermatitis (CODD)

The exact cause of contagious ovine digital dermatitis is yet to be defined. However, Treponema sp. bacteria are frequently detected along with other microbes in cases of scald and foot rot in sheep.

Ulcers are found at the coronary band, at the skin hoof boundary. Ulcers can also be found on the hoof wall. The condition differs from foot rot in that there is a sudden onset of more severe lameness.

The majority of affected sheep become severely lame. In a clean flock, free of the bacteria causing CODD, purchasing infected sheep is the main route of entry.

Five Point Plan

The Five Point Plan was developed using existing published science on sheep lameness, and practical experience from farmers who had achieved sustained low levels of lameness. The Five Point Plan

has five action points that support the animal in three different ways: building resilience, reducing disease challenge and establishing immunity.

Reducing the prevalence of lameness requires a long-term commitment to implementing all five points of the plan. Speak to your veterinary practitioner for more information on creating an action plan for your flock.


Watch: Fine Tuning Irish Dairy Webinar


On Wednesday September 2nd, MSD Animal Health, The National Dairy Council and Axa Insurance hosted the Fine-Tuning Irish Dairy Conference for a second year running by means of a digital webinar.

WATCH: Fine-Tuning Irish Dairy Webinar Session 2 – Adopting Monitoring Technology on Irish Dairy Farms

0:00 – 19:30: Presentation by William Minchin, Ruminant Director, MSD Animal Health

19:30 – 54:00: Panel discussion including Cara Sheridan, Vet Adviser, MSD Animal Health who discusses the role of the vet with monitoring technology ; Eamon Sheehan, Dairy Farmer who has installed this technology and gives an insight to how it is performing on his farm and, George Ramsbottom, Dairy Specialist, Teagasc who discusses the return on investment and making monitoring technology work on your farm.

Moderated by Matt O’Keeffe

Panel discussion: Fine-Tuning Irish Dairy Webinar Session 2 – Adopting Monitoring Technology on Irish Dairy Farms

Salmonella – The notorious bacterial disease that no-one wants on their farm

Introduction

Salmonella infection is one of the most well-known diseases affecting cattle in Ireland. Samonella infections is a serious drain on the profitability and productivity of the Irish dairy herd. In addition, there is the added risk of being a zoonotic disease, meaning infection can be transmitted to humans from animals. Infection in the dairy herd has the potential to cost up to €112 per cow, per year. Research has shown that herds which include vaccination as part of a control plan record superior profits in comparison to unvaccinated, positive herds to a value of €11,800 based on a 100-cow herd.

Salmonella is considered endemic in Ireland and can be commonly found in herds throughout the country. The majority of salmonella infections in Irish cattle are caused by one of the following serotypes: Salmonella typhimurium or Salmonella dublin, with abortion outbreaks typically associated with Salmonella dublin. Other clinical signs such as pneumonia, meningitis, arthritis, osteomyelitis and sloughing of extremities are also seen. Salmonella is primarily shed in the dung of infected cattle and infection is usually picked up by oral ingestion. Once an animal is infected, they can become carriers of the infection for life. This is known as latency and it is an important component in maintaining infection within a herd. Carrier cattle will often shed the bacteria during times of stress such as around calving or changes in management, acting as a source of infection to the rest of the herd. As many dairy herds have expanded in recent years, there has been a heightened risk of introduction of the disease through the buying-in of these carrier animals.

Diagnosis

              As with any disease outbreak it is important to involve your attending veterinary practitioner to assist with diagnosing the exact cause of disease and to formulate an effective control plan. Diagnosis of infection by post mortem investigation is considered gold standard. Any aborted foetuses should go to the local regional veterinary laboratory as soon as possible. In a scour outbreak, multiple dung samples can be used to help identify bacteria while paired blood samples can be taken can be taken to demonstrate a rising level of immunity to the infection. The first sample is taken during the active phase of infection while the second sample is taken four weeks later.

Bulk milk antibody testing can be a useful surveillance tool for dairy herds too. Although results might not indicate active infection within herd at the time of sampling, monitoring results can give an idea of the level of exposure within the herd and potential trends of infection. Recent research has shown exposure of Irish dairy herds to salmonella is very common, with 49% of bulk milk tanks testing positive for salmonella antibodies, indicating cattle in these herds had come into contact with the bacteria at some point in the preceding months.

Control

As the disease is notoriously difficult to eliminate from farms, vaccination and strict management measures must be implemented to reduce the spread of infection. These can include –

  • Maintaining a closed herd/purchase from herds of known disease status – If buying in, quarantine arrivals for a period of 4 weeks minimum.
  • Strict biosecurity – Cows which have aborted should be isolated for one month and any abortion materials should be disposed of in a hygienic manner. Ensure fencing is stock proof to avoid break-in infection from neighbouring herds.  
  • Management of slurry – Salmonella bacteria can survive for prolonged periods in slurry tanks and for up to 300 days on soil. Faecal material from clinical cases must be prevented from entering the slurry tank.
  • Strict hygiene – A disinfection point should be in place for everyone who enters and leaves farm to use. Hygiene of buildings between batches of animals is critical while personal hygiene should also be maintained as a result of the zoonotic risk.
  • Rodent and bird control – As pests can spread disease, a plan should be in place for rigorous control, especially with regard to access to feed stores.

Vaccination

            Bovivac S is the only vaccine available for Salmonella dublin and Salmonella typhimurium in Ireland. For best herd control of salmonellosis, it is advisable to vaccinate all animals in the herd. Healthy calves from approximately three weeks of age can receive the primary vaccination course of two 2ml injections separated by an interval of 14-21 days.  Calves over six months of age and adult cattle should receive two 5ml injections 21 days apart. Depending on the level of infection circulating in the herd, one annual vaccination should maintain a sufficient level of immunity in the herd. Although not licensed for the control of abortion, research has reported that the proportion of Salmonella dublin positive abortions from vaccinated herds was significantly lower than in herds which were not vaccinating. To determine the most appropriate time to vaccinate your herd, please consult with your attending veterinary practitioner.

In conclusion, the implications of a salmonella outbreak can be severe and result in significant financial, production and welfare costs. Not to mention the stress of its potential zoonotic risk. Vaccination can form the cornerstone of control along with good management, strict hygiene protocols and high biosecurity standards.


Tackling lungworm on a Cork dairy farm

This post is provided by Tommy Heffernan https://tommythevet.ie/

Three years ago I met a very enthusiastic young vet student and his mam for the first time. Sean has since qualified and is now working as a full-time vet in Glenbower vets in Cork, a member of XLVets Ireland. I visited Sean on his family dairy farm to see how he has tackled lungworm control since 2013. His dad Gerry milks 110 Holstein Friesians with a split herd, with 45 calving down in autumn and the rest in spring, all calves being taken through to beef.

Lungworm and coughing dairy cows are now a big problem in many herds. Over the last five years, we have seen more and more herd cases where this problem is dramatically effecting performance and profit.

Over the coming weeks, I’m going to take a deeper look at all things lungworm, in an awareness campaign.

The problem

Lungworm is an increasing issue on many Irish pasture-based systems. The weather, overuse of dosing (youngstock) and grazing strategies all mean the lungworm parasite (dictyocaulus viviparous) has been affecting many herds.

Traditionally we have controlled this parasite with the use of anthelmintics or wormers. On some dairy farms, this has been limited during lactation by the fact only one product is now licensed. I’ve had many conversations with farmers now dosing cows 3+ times during the grazing season.

Lungworm control is also difficult because of the sudden onset of symptoms and sometimes difficulty in diagnosing reinfection syndrome. Where often as Sean described himself in the video, where vets use BAL (bronchoalveolar lavage) or lung washes to make a diagnosis.

With only one licensed product for lactating animals and the ever-growing threat around anthelmintic resistance, this means we must look at options around control on farms dosing cows regularly during their lactation to control lungworm.  With the development of immunity being key to lungworm control, the use of the lungworm vaccine is a real option for farmers.

Sean’s story

In 2012 Sean had big issues with coughing cows and lungworm. This was a very wet year, and these are conditions that lungworms really thrive in.

The cows and young heifers were coughing while at grass, and dropping back in production. They were dosed but the problem continued when the dose ran the course of its therapeutic dose. This meant a summer where cattle on the farm had to receive several doses (anthelmintics).

They investigated the problem with their vet and diagnosed lungworm.

Sean began researching his options and discovered a lot of farms in the UK using the lungworm vaccine with good success. While whole herd vaccination is very much the gold standard, Sean implemented a partial dosing strategy before his 2013 grazing season.

He targeted all his 2nd grazers and 1st lactation animals with two doses of oral lungworm vaccine during the winter housing period of 2013. He now continues this protocol with all yearlings receiving two doses and 1st lactation (heifers) getting an annual booster.

He got great results with the lungworm vaccine since implementing the program. Over the last seven years, he hasn’t had to dose his herd during the grazing period. He continues to monitor his younger stock for other worms and dose them accordingly (calves 1st grazers). Cows now only receive a worm dose at the end of their lactation at housing

The key thing around lungworm vaccination seems to be planning. It is a live vaccine and needs to be ordered in advance of the dosing period. It also must be stored and used quickly by oral administration.

While Sean has had fantastic results every farm must assess their own risk and come up with a plan or strategy with their vet. The aim for any farm should be to reduce down anthelmintics where possible especially in adult animals in the herd.