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‘Vaccinating my sheep against abortion gives me great peace of mind’

Bought-in ewe hoggets resulted in a serious abortion outbreak for Galway sheep farmer Bernie Geraghty.

“Around seven years ago, I bought 28 hoggets and a third of them aborted. Ever since then, I have been vaccinating against both enzootic abortion of ewes and toxoplasmosis.”

“I vaccinated the entire flock the first year.  I now only need to vaccinate the replacement ewe lambs.”  

“Even though I now breed my own replacements, I feel vaccination against abortion is a worthwhile and cost-effective method of control. It gives great peace of mind,” said Bernie who runs a flock of 140 ewes and 25 replacement ewe lambs at Doon, Kilconnell.

He is participating in an information and awareness campaign run by XLVets on the risks and costs of abortion and the role that vaccination plays in a strategic control plan.  The campaign is run in association with MSD Animal Health which manufactures vaccines for the control of both toxoplasmosis and enzootic abortion.


As part of the campaign Bernie Geraghty was joined on his farm by John Jenkins from the nearby parish of Ballymacward.

John, who combines farming with an off-farm job, runs a flock of 70 ewes.  He has not been vaccinating against abortion up to now but is now seriously considering the introduction of vaccination as part of his sheep health programme.

Their discussion was videoed and is being disseminated through a range of platforms to the wider farming public.

Veterinary Advice

Bernie Geraghty is in the happy position of having his son Conor as his veterinary practitioner and he also participated in the videoed discussion.

Based in Mountbellew, Conor and practitioner Gerry Neary run Geraghty and Neary Veterinary, based in Mountbellew.  The practice services some 1,400 farmers in east Galway and south Roscommon. 

Conor is also current President of Veterinary Ireland and is a director of XLVets Ireland, a network of over 30 independently owned veterinary practices nationwide that share knowledge and experiences in order to improve the quality of service to farmers.

He believes that discussion among farmers is the key to the adoption of new and better practices and this is the driver behind the current XLVets campaign on the role of vaccination in reducing abortion outbreaks.  

Vital to establish the causes of sheep aborting

“Always investigate the reasons for abortions.  Arrange with your vet for swabs to be sent to FarmLab Diagnostics in Elphin and for foetuses and placentae to be sent to the regional veterinary laboratory,” urged Conor Geraghty.

Analysis by regional veterinary laboratories shows toxoplasmosis and enzootic abortion to be the leading causes of abortion in sheep.

He said outbreaks of toxoplasmosis and enzootic abortion are regular occurrences on client farms every year.   He recalled an outbreak on one client’s farm two years ago where 50% of the flock aborted.

Mental Impact

“As well as the huge financial costs involved, an abortion outbreak has a severe mental impact on farmers and their families.”

He said that while toxoplasmosis is not passed from ewe to ewe, enzootic abortion is highly infectious with organisms passed from ewe to ewe in infected afterbirth, on new lambs and in vaginal discharges for up to three weeks after lambing.

“Where enzootic abortion is diagnosed, it is vital to isolate aborted ewes.  If fostering, only foster male lambs.

“Where an outbreak occurs, the use of an antibiotic injection may reduce the number of enzootic abortions.  But this should only be done in consultation with the vet.” 


He said vaccination as part of a flock health plan plays an important role in protecting against toxoplasmosis and enzootic abortion.  It also reduces the use of antibiotics, a hugely important issue in the current climate of concern about over-use of antibiotics.   

“The one shot vaccines for toxoplasmosis and enzootic abortion can be given to breeding ewes and lambs (from five months of age) during the non-pregnancy season.  Vaccination must be completed at least four weeks before sheep go to the ram.

“The two vaccines can be administered at the same time, but not mixed, and must be given in separate injection sites.  Generally, just one shot of each vaccine is required during the lifetime of the ewe.”

What you need to know about toxoplasmosis and enzootic abortion

Toxoplasmosis, caused by a microscopic parasite Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii), is most commonly caused by contaminated cat faeces in feed, bedding or manure or directly on to pasture.

A single cat dropping can contain enough eggs to infect more than 100 ewes and almost 75% of ewes are believed to come in contact with T. gondii during their lifetime.

Symptoms can include barren sheep, abortions, stillbirths, weakly lambs and mummified foetuses. 

Vaccination is the only way to effectively build uniform immunity to toxoplasmosis in the flock.  As older ewes are more likely than younger ewes to have already been in contact with T. gondii, it may be an option to vaccinate the younger sheep and then vaccinate all replacements as they enter the flock.

Where the risk of infection is high on a heavily contaminated farm populated with previously unexposed sheep, initial whole flock vaccination is cost effective. 

Enzootic abortion

An outbreak of enzootic abortion, caused by a bacteria-type organism called Chlamydophila abortus, can result in 30% of sheep aborting.  The disease is usually caused by infected bought-in replacements but it can also be spread by wildlife carrying infected placentae from farm to farm.

When a ewe aborts she sheds large numbers of organisms, which can infect any in-contact ewe or lamb.  These newly infected sheep will not show any signs of infection. 

The organisms remain dormant in the body until the ewe lambs again.  In infected lambs, they can remain dormant for up to two years.   About three weeks before lambing, the placenta becomes inflamed and abortion occurs.

While ewes that aborted often continue to have a normal lambing in subsequent years, they are carriers of the disease and may still shed organisms resulting in infection of other sheep and lambs.  

Vaccination will effectively reduce the risk of enzootic abortion as part of a flock health plan.  Because there is no test to identify latently infected sheep, it is important to vaccinate all breeding sheep in the first year.  After that, only replacements need to be vaccinated.

WEBINAR: Method of measuring greenhouse gases in agriculture is flawed, says leading scientist

The case for treating methane from agriculture differently to long-lived gases, such as carbon dioxide, in the debate on global warming is undeniable. This is according to leading global air quality scientist Professor Frank Mitloehner who spoke during a recent webinar host by MSD Animal Health.

During the webinar, Prof Mitloehner highlighted what he described as the flawed system of measuring the contribution of livestock production to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

“Methane is a powerful GHG, with about 28 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide over 100 years.  But methane does not hang around for 100 years.

“Methane only lasts in the atmosphere for 10 years.  In contrast, carbon dioxide persists for up to 1,000 years,” said Prof Mitloehner.

He said stock gases, such as carbon dioxide, accumulate over time as they stay in the atmosphere.  Flow gases, such as methane, stay stagnant as they are destroyed at the same rate of emission.


“It’s a cyclical process, referred to as the biogenic carbon cycle, and it’s been around as long as life itself.

“Therefore, if herd sizes do not increase for 10 years, additional methane is not added to the atmosphere.  This is why the case for treating methane differently to long-lived gases is indisputable.”

He said the role of grassland in acting as a carbon sink must be given more prominence in the climate change debate.

“Grassland may well be a more reliable carbon sink than forestry as most of its carbon is stored below the ground whereas forests store carbon above the ground.”

Fergal Morris, general manager of MSD Animal Health who moderated the webinar highlighted the big variation between countries and regions in the level of carbon sequestrated by grassland.  For example, there is 20 times more carbon per gram in Irish soil than in Spain.

Prof Mitloehner said all this does not mean that methane emissions are important.  The effort to reduce emissions must be accelerated through a greater concentration on smart farming.

He referred to the reduction of 2.2m tonnes, or 25%, in methane emissions by the Californian dairy industry during the past four years.  This was the result of a collaborative effort by state authorities, farmers and scientists.  Initiatives undertaken included the installation of biogas plants.  

“Scientists and farmers are also working on feed additives and other projects to help them reach their goal of a 40% reduction of methane by 2030.”

Animal Health

Galway-based veterinary practitioner and President of Veterinary Ireland Conor Geraghty also participated in the webinar and highlighted the importance of animal health in reducing methane emissions.

He said diseases and poor fertility greatly increase the level of emissions.  Preventing the major disease threats through nutrition, biosecurity and strategic vaccination will reduce emissions and increase profits.

According to Fergal Morris, diseases such as salmonella and BVD in dairy cows increase emissions by up to 20%.  Infertility can result in a 15% increase in emissions while fluke can lift emissions by more than 10%.

IRP technology reduces the bacteria's ability to absorb iron
nly one cattle pneumonia vaccine registered in Ireland utilizes IRP technology.
Bad Science

Leading European food scientist Professor Frederic Leroy told the MSD webinar that ‘bad science and extreme agendas’ are misleading consumers on the health risks associated with meat consumption.

“The health dangers of red meat are far from being supported by robust scientific evidence Calls for the planet to go vegan are pure nonsense and are ideologically driven by people who have a philosophical perspective and a bias against certain types of healthy foods,” said Mr Leroy, who is professor of food science and biotechnology at Vrije University in Brussels.

“Diets based solely on plant-based foods are restrictive, less robust, and may result in a greater number of deficiencies in essential nutrients, especially in vulnerable groups.”

He highlighted the health risks for children raised on vegan or vegetarian diets, stressing that red meat has an important place in a healthy, sustainable diet.

In relation to GHG emissions, he said the real protein value and nutrient density of different foods should be looked at.

“Many foods with low GHG equivalent values have low nutritional values relative to the higher nutritional density of meat-based products.

 “We therefore need to examine if the higher greenhouse gas equivalent values of meat-based foods can be offset by their higher nutritional values.”

Presentation Links

Fergal Morris (General Manager, MSD Animal Health Ireland):

Professor Frank Mitloehner (UC Davis Professor & CE Air Quality Specialist, Dept Animal Science):

Professor Frédéric Leroy (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Bioengineering Science Department):

FAQ on IBR Control

Vaccination Starts With The Calf

There are 3 components to controlling this disease
1. Biosecurity
2. Culling
3. Vaccination

To keep the disease out of IBR free herds and to limit the spread in herds with IBR positive animals

Culling of animals which have tested positive for IBR. In many herds it is not a practical option as there are simply too many animals which are positive (once infected an animal becomes a life-long carrier) and therefore it would not be economically viable.

IBR calf vaccination
Calves from 3 months of age can be vaccinated using Bovilis IBR Marker Live into the muscle

For effective control of IBR, vaccination must:
• Reduce the number of new infections – main cause of virus spreading in a herd
• Reduce severity of clinical signs – Limit cost of disease impact

FAQ on IBR disease and Bovilis IBR Marker Live

Do I need to vaccinate my herd for IBR?

75% of herds have been exposed to IBR, it is an endemic disease in Ireland. Clinical signs are not always present in infected cattle. Subclinical disease (without signs) can result in losses of 2.6kg of milk/cow/day. Speak to your vet regarding screening for the virus through bulk milk tank testing and blood sampling animals in your herd.

Herd level prevalence of IBR by county in Ireland1

I vaccinate my cows and heifers against IBR – should I vaccinate my calves?

The benefit from whole herd IBR vaccination starting with the youngstock is that the calves are protected from the virus and this minimises the number of animals that become carriers. Every animal that is infected with IBR becomes a lifelong (latent) carrier and these animals are the source of infection in the herd.

I vaccinate every 6 months against IBR – can I move to every 12 months now?

12 monthly vaccination (after the initial 2 vaccinations 6 months apart) may be suitable for low prevalence IBR herds. Speak to your vet on how to assess and monitor herd prevalence. Check out the below video showing how to get your herd onto the 12 month vaccination protocol for Bovilis IBR Marker Live. Again, consult with your vet to determine if your herd is suitable to move to the 12 month protocol

I got a high IBR reading in my bulk tank – what should I do?

Talk to your vet about what this high reading may mean in terms of virus in your herd. A high reading indicates that virus is actively circulating in the milking cow herd.

My bulk milk tank test is negative for IBR – does this mean my herd is IBR free?

Not necessarily; bulk tank antibody tests only detect IBR virus when at least 20% of the milking cows are carriers. If you have a suspicion that IBR is in your herd, speak to your vet regarding blood sampling individual animals.

I know IBR is circulating within my cow herd, can they pass the virus to the calves?

In short, yes they can. Cows are most likely to shed virus at times of stress e.g calving time, peak lactation. If calves are in the same air space (remember IBR can travel for 5 metres) as older animals who are shedding virus then they are vulnerable to the disease.

Sub-clinical IBR can have a significant impact on production output

My neighbouring farmer vaccinates for IBR – I’m a beef farmer, how do I check if my herd has IBR?

Blood sampling is the most common method to determine the prevalence of IBR disease within a beef herd. This involves sampling all animals or a representative number of animals in the herd. Talk to your vet for more information.

There is an outbreak of IBR on my farm – is it safe to use Bovilis IBR Marker Live in the face of an outbreak?

Yes, for the fastest onset of activity; 4 days, it can be given intranasally. Onset of immunity after intramuscular administration is 14 days.

I vaccinated my calves up the nose at 1 month of age against IBR – do I give them a booster?

Yes. Calves that received an initial shot of Bovilis IBR Marker Live up the nose will require a booster 2 ml shot, at 3-4 months of age. At this age or older animals, can be vaccinated either intranasally or into the muscle.

What is a marker vaccine?

Marker vaccines do not contain glycoprotein E (gE) and therefore do not cause production of antibodies to gE. Field virus and non-marker vaccines on the other hand do contain gE and therefore lead to production of antibodies to gE. An IBR gE ELISA test in herds that are vaccinating with marker vaccines allows differentiation between vaccine and wild virus antibodies. Non-marker vaccines are still available in Northern Ireland. IBR marker vaccines are the only type of IBR vaccine available in the Republic of Ireland.

Bovilis IBR Marker Live is the number 1 IBR vaccine in Ireland

Which vaccine should I use for IBR protection – live or inactivated?

Less shedding of the virus occurs in animals that have been vaccinated with a live vaccine compared to animals that had received inactivated vaccines. Studies have shown that live IBR marker vaccines provide better protection against clinical signs than inactivated vaccines. There is limited evidence that using inactivated vaccine can result in a better reduction of shedding by reactivated latently infected animals than live vaccine. Bulls intended for use as future AI sires must not be vaccinated with any type of IBR vaccine.

Addition info

Live vaccineInactivated vaccine
Primary courseStandard or low-risk herds
Young calves (2weeks-3months of age)Pedigree herds (except potential AI sires)
All herds including high-risk herds 
High prevalence herds 
In the face of an outbreak 
Comparison of live and inactivated IBR vaccines

Risk factors to a herd:

  • Purchasing stock (especially without a quarantine procedure)
  • Mixing stock from two different farms, including contract rearing operations
  • Poor boundary fences, IBR can spread for up to five metres
  • Bringing cattle to and from the mart
  • Attending agricultural shows
  • Personnel -Farm workers who are in contact with other stock

Talk to your vet today about IBR calf vaccination from 3 months of age, using Bovilis IBR Marker LiveFor more check out our brochure here, our IBR page or Twitter page

1. Bosch et al (1996) An attenuated bovine herpesvirus 1 vaccine induces better protection than two inactivated marker vaccines. Veterinary Microbiology 52, 223-234

WEBINAR INVITE: Greenhouse Gas Emission; Are Irish cattle the solution or the problem?

MSD Animal Health are extremely lucky to have secured two world renowned speakers; Professor Frank Mitloehner (Professor and Air Quality Extension Specialist, UC Davis) and Professor Frédéric Leroy (Professor of Food Science and Biotechnology, Vrije Universiteit Brussel), for a webinar on June 2nd 7.30-9.30pm.

Professor Mitloehner will discuss the role of cattle in climate change in the first presentation. Thereafter, Professor Leroy will discuss meat, health and dietary guidelines. Conor Geraghty (President of Veterinary Ireland) and Justin McCarthy (Editor, Irish Farmer’s Journal) will join for a panel discussion at the end of both presentations. MSD Animal Health General Manager, Fergal Morris, will also provide a short presentation and moderate the session.

This is a great opportunity to hear the facts when it comes to the carbon footprint of Irish agriculture. There will also be a focus on the role of the veterinarian, farmer and wider agricultural industry in this equation.

We would like to invite you to the meeting and you may register via the link below. We look forward to welcoming you to the event.

Meeting registration:

Do calves need an IBR vaccine?

Turning calves out to grass for the first time is seriously rewarding. Rearing healthy calves in the first place takes great effort and hard work. Minimising the impact of diseases like diarrhoea and pneumonia can be challenging and this year was no exception with the storms of early spring to the warm daily temperatures and cold nights of April. Weaning dairy calves, dealing with coccidiosis threats, pneumonia and clostridial vaccination; the calf ‘to do’ list can be comprehensive. What about IBR calf vaccination?

3 month old calves can receive a 2 ml shot of Bovilis IBR Marker now followed by a 2 ml shot in 6 months time. They can then be vaccinated every 12 months

IBR – Infectious bovine rhinotracheitis

Infection with IBR virus is widespread in the cattle population in Ireland, with evidence of exposure in over 75% of herds (both beef and dairy).  It is capable of causing disease (both clinical and subclinical) resulting in huge economic losses at farm level through lack of production and treatment costs. The majority of infections are seen in cattle greater than 12 months of age. However all ages are at risk of IBR.

IBR Calf Vaccination
Herd level prevalence of IBR by county in Ireland1

Clinical infections usually occur when animals are infected for the first time. Signs such as discharge from the eyes and nose, loud laboured breathing, high temperatures, resulting depression and reduced appetite may be experienced. Milk yield may be affected, and abortion may also occur. Subclinical infections are those without overt clinical signs and for this reason may go unnoticed for some time in a herd. Subclinical IBR can result in losses of 2.6kg of milk/cow/day.

The financial impact of subclinical IBR can be significant

Those infected for the first time shed high levels of the virus for approximately two weeks. At times of stress (e.g. mixing/housing/breeding/calving) the virus can reactivate, and that animal may shed again. Every time an animal sheds the virus it has the potential to infect more herd mates.

Control of IBR

There are three components to controlling this endemic disease;

  1. Biosecurity
  2. Culling
  3. Vaccination


Biosecurity can be further divided into two parts. Bio exclusion and bio containment.

Bio exclusion (the process of keeping disease out of a herd) is of particular importance in Ireland as many herds purchase cattle (e.g. the stock bull), avail of contract rearing for heifers, attend marts or shows (present Covid-19 times excluded). IBR can cross distances of up to five metres so neighbouring cattle during the grazing season can also be a source of infection or vice versa.

Bio containment (the process of reducing the threat of infection within a herd) relies mainly on herd management – segregating of age groups for example.


Culling of animals which have tested positive for IBR is a quick method to reduce herd prevalence. However, in many herds it is not a practical option as there are simply too many animals which are positive. Remember, once infected an animal becomes a life-long carrier and therefore it would not be economically viable option.

IBR Calf Vaccination
Bovilis IBR Marker Live is the No.1 IBR vaccine on the market in Ireland!


For effective control of IBR, vaccination must:

  • Reduce the number of new infections – Main cause of virus spreading in a herd
  • Reduce severity of clinical signs – Limit cost of disease impact

The time to start vaccination depends on the particular situation of each farm. In the absence of virus circulation among the young calf group, vaccination is started at the age of 3 months and revaccination 6 months later. All subsequent revaccinations within 12 month periods. This will provide protection against IBR virus and minimise the number of animals that become carriers. Herds that have a moderate to high prevalence of IBR, are high-risk and/or have clinical signs are best to remain on a six monthly vaccination programme until IBR is under better control in the herd. For the spring calving herd this will mean calves will receive their first dose of a live IBR vaccine in June/July 2020.

In high prevalence herds or where there is disease in the calves, vaccination will be needed sooner than 3 months. Intranasal IBR vaccination is the recommended route in order to overcome maternally derived antibodies in this scenario. An intramuscular vaccination programme then commences at three-four months of age as stated above. See video below explaining the vaccination protocol for Bovilis IBR Marker Live

Bovilis IBR Marker Live – 12 month vaccination protocol starts by vaccinating the calf from 3 months of age

Bovilis IBR marker live provides protection by reducing clinical signs and virus excretion. It is the only single dose IBR marker vaccine for use either intranasally or intramuscularly. It is a 2ml dose with the fastest onset of immunity (four days after intranasal administration and 14 days after intramuscular administration).

The majority of herds in Ireland are of medium or high seroprevalence. Vaccination with a live IBR marker vaccine combined with biosecurity and monitoring are the most practical and appropriate control methods. Many herds are missing a trick by only vaccinating the cows. This is controlling clinical signs and the impact of IBR on production but not necessarily reducing the spread (to unvaccinated younger cattle) and therefore the number of new infections each year. The aim of whole herd vaccination is to reduce the level of IBR in the herd over time. In answer to the opening question – yes; to IBR vaccination of calves.

Talk to your vet today about IBR calf vaccination from 3 months of age, using Bovilis IBR Marker Live. For more check out our brochure here, our IBR page or Twitter page

1. Bosch et al (1996) An attenuated bovine herpesvirus 1 vaccine induces better protection than two inactivated marker vaccines. Veterinary Microbiology 52, 223-234

Flies on the rise as rain arrives – Protect your animals now

Warm weather and moisture provide the perfect environment for flies to multiply. Butox Pour-On can provide up to 10 weeks protection against flies for your cattle.

Rainfall across the country this spring has been lower than average. In comparison to the period of March 1st to May 20th 2019, the weather stations in Athenry, Mullingar, Oakpark and Moorepark recorded 92mm, 154mm, 127mm and 117mm less rainfall respectively, for the same period in 2020. As a result, there has been low levels of grass growth on farms across the country in recent weeks. The last few days however, has brought much welcomed rain to certain areas and will improve grass growth.

Dairy cows grazing low covers as a result of low rainfall
Dairy cows grazing

The mild weather combined with the recent rainfall provides the perfect environment for nuisance flies to multiply. Flies can cause a state of unease in the parlour leading to occasions of flying clusters. Flies can interfere with the grazing routine of cattle and this may cause a reduction in milk and butterfat production. Their impact does not end there, they are all capable of transmitting viruses, bacteria and certain parasites.

Limousin bull with flies along his upper shoulder in spring 2020
Flies on this Limousin bull in early spring 2020

There are different types of flies in Ireland such as House or Stable flies; Face flies; Head flies: Warble flies (rare) and Blowflies. Face flies are the top offenders for annoyance of cattle at pasture. Face flies and head flies are linked to the transmission of the bacteria (Moraxella bovis) responsible for “pink eye”. In addition, there is strong evidence to suggest head flies are also involved in the spread of “summer mastitis”.


Removing or at least reducing the source of infection is the most useful approach to control stable flies. Areas of manure provide the perfect environment for flies to breed and therefore, build up of manure should be avoided e.g. cow roadways. In addition, fields that border woodlands may expose cattle to higher volumes of flies and are best avoided during peak risk period (June-September) if possible.

It is best practice to start fly control early in the season and although fly numbers may seem low, they will be laying large numbers of eggs.

Control mechanisms for flies include; pour-on and spray preparations, repellent creams and insecticide impregnated ear tags. To ensure correct product usage read the guidelines supplied by the manufacturers and adhere to instructions regarding administration, dose frequency of use and withdrawal periods.

Butox Pour-On pack shot

Butox Pour-On

Butox Pour-On contains deltramethrin and is indicated for the control of flies and lice in cattle. It is advised to pour the dose along the animal’s spine from the base of the head to the tail. The person applying should wear gloves. Butox Pour-On has an 18-day meat and 12-hour milk withdrawal period for cattle. For dairy herds, for example, the time to apply is after evening milking to ensure that the full withdrawal period is respected.

For fly control, a single application provides protection for 6 to 10 weeks (depending on the infestation, fly species and weather). If flies remain an issue thereafter, it is advised to repeat the application.

Butox Pour-On Dose Rate:
Up to 100kg10ml
100 – 300kg20ml
Over 300kg30ml

In conclusion, to avoid animal irritation and the unseen cause of reduced animal performance by starting your fly control programme now.

Time for turnout – time for Tribovax 10

Many batches of calves and weanlings are being let out to grass now; a welcome relief to farmers’ workload.

An important question – have they had their clostridial vaccine?

Clostridial bacteria are everywhere; in soil, within buildings, in the muscle and gut of healthy animals. Additionally, animals are more susceptible during key husbandry practices (which break the skin) such as tagging, de-horning or castration. Clostridia lie dormant in the form of highly resistant spores which can survive for many years in the environment. The warm, damp soils of Ireland predispose to high levels of disease.

Clostridial infection usually results in sudden death. Clostridial disease remains one of the main causes of mortality in cattle. Blackleg is the most frequently diagnosed clostridial disease. June through to November is the greatest risk period in Ireland with a peak from August to October. Cases are most commonly recorded in younger cattle with 90% occurring in animals < 12 months of age. Many carcases presented to the regional veterinary laboratories for postmortem examination had not been vaccinated, were vaccinated incorrectly or vaccinated without the required strain.

Tribovax 10 is a “10 in 1” clostridial vaccine that provides broad protection against ten clostridial bacteria namely C. perfringens type A, B, C & D, C. novyi, C. septicum, C. tetani, C. sordellii, C. haemolyticum and C. chauvoei; the causes of blackleg, tetanus, malignant oedema, black disease, ‘sudden death syndrome’ (caused by C. sordellii), bacterial redwater and enterotoxaemia in cattle.

How to use Tribovax 10

  • The primary course involves 2 injections given 4-6 weeks apart

(1 injection is not enough as it is an inactivated vaccine and would provide little or no immunity)

  • Single boosters are then given at 6-12 month intervals depending on the risk profile of the batch of animals
  • It is a 2 ml dose in cattle and 1 ml dose in sheep and should be given under the skin

(recommended in the loose skin on the side of the neck)

  • It can be given to calves from 2 weeks of age
  • Shake well before-hand and use within 8 hours of opening the bottle
  • Change needles regularly while injecting

Start calves now on their two injection primary course and give weanlings their booster injection of Tribovax 10 (provided they received their full primary course within the last 12 months).

2020 Breeding preparation is underway and so too is 2021… How?

Correct management of this year’s spring-born calves will influence the age they reach puberty. Don’t let pneumonia interrupt their growth and potential milk production performance

With the recent dry, sunny weather, farms are bustling with activity. Fields are being closed up for silage, cattle are being turned out to paddocks and the deep green colour is starting to reappear in the grass after a dull, wet start to the year. For the most, dairy farms are 95-100% through calving and now the focus quickly turns to preparing the herd for the breeding season. Those too being prepared for their second breeding season, are the 2018-born replacement heifers.

Of those 2018-born replacements heifers, are any of those not reaching milk production yields you thought they would achieve at the minute? Trying to figure out why? Can you remember if any of these animals were effected by pneumonia or in contact with other calves that got pneumonia during the spring of 2018? This could be one of the reasons why they aren’t hitting their milk production potential.

2019-born replacement heifer at grass prior to the breeding season

How does pneumonia in calves effect their future milk production potential?

In a study, 215 Holstein calves from three different farms were included in a trial. The trial was to determine if the effect of lung consolidation (lung damage) influenced the age of first calving, first lactation milk production and survival to the end of first lactation. Calves were accessed weekly during the first 8 weeks of their lives. An ultrasound scanner was used to score the calves lung health. The results were of great interest. The presence of lung consolidation (lung damage) at least once within the first 8 weeks of life resulted in 525kg decrease in their first lactation milk production1.

Sarah Campbell, vet advisor with MSD Animal Health demonstrating the use of ultrasound to detect lung damage in 6 week old replacement heifers

Refresher on pneumonia

Pneumonia is a multi-factorial disease meaning many factors can influence the onset of the disease. Stress or viral infection can weaken the calf’s immune system. This allows for the bacterial pneumonia agents (which naturally live in the tonsils) to quickly replicate and move to the lungs where they can cause irreversible damage. Examples of stress are, mixing of animals, change in diet (milk weaning), dehorning, change in weather etc. Could anything you plan on doing disturb or cause stress to your calves over the coming weeks?

Calves that got pneumonia are off the replacement list – is that enough?

What you do now can influence calves ability to reach their target weights at key times over the coming two years (weaning, housing, pre and post breeding and pre and post calving). On some farms, calves that got pneumonia this spring are crossed off the replacement list for 2022. However, pneumonia is often not detected in calves as it can be sub-clinical (animal won’t show physical signs). Often times, in contact animals’ immune systems will be challenged by their sick comrades. This can cause them to work at fighting off the pressure of disease instead of using the energy for growth and development. Milk weaning and mixing of calves is right around the corner and this can be a stressful time. It is important to consider how to reduce the impact that stress and also viral infection pressure will have on calves during this time

Some factors that can cause stress on calves

Vaccination solutions to reduce the risk of pneumonia

Vaccination is a simple, effective way to protect your calves against pneumonia causing agents. It will reduce the risk of your calves breaking down with pneumonia which can effect their growth and performance.

Bovilis INtranasal RSP Live is a new intranasal vaccine for cattle. It provides protection against two viruses, RSV and Pi3. Some key facts:

  • Provides the earliest protection that’s available on the market – Given from 7 days of age
  • Provides the fastest protection against RSV (5 days) & PI3 virus (7 days)
  • 2 ml dose given up the nose
  • Provides 3 months protection
Bovilis INtranasal RSP Live – the details

Many Irish farms naturally have Mannheimia haemolytica present. This is a bacterial agent that lives in the tonsils of cattle. Under stressful conditions it can multiply rapidly, move to the lungs and cause pneumonia. Some key facts:

  • Bovipast RSP provides protection against RSV, Pi3 and Mannheimia haemolytica
  • Bovipast RSP provides the broadest protection against Mannheimia haemolytica*
  • Two dose primary course given from 2 weeks of age with a booster dose given 4-6 weeks later
  • 5 ml dose given under the skin
  • A booster dose is given 2 weeks prior to the next risk period
Bovipast RSP – Vaccination protocol

For the best advice speak to your vet. For more information check out links below:

Bovilis INtranasal RSP Live
Bovipast RSP

*Mannheimia (Pasteurella) haemolytica A1 and A6
1: Dunn, T.R., et all. (2018), The effect of lung consolidation, as determined by ultrasonography on first-lactation milk production in Holstein dairy calves, J. Dairy Sci., 101: 1-7, 2018.

Milking 170 cows and committed to annual BVD vaccination

“I have been vaccinating against BVD for the past 12 years and will continue to do so until we rid the country of the disease,” said dairy farmer Peter Brophy.
Peter, who with his mother Margaret farms at Wells, Bagenalstown, switched from sucklers to dairying three years ago and plans to milk just under 170 cows this year.
“Twelve years ago, we had a BVD outbreak in the suckler herd. We had two persistently infected (PI) calves born. Ever since then, we vaccinate every year with Bovilis BVD. We haven’t had a PI or any issue with BVD on the farm since”

Bovilis BVD

All replacement heifers are given their primary and booster shots of Bovilis BVD four weeks apart before breeding. He ensures that the booster shot is given at least four weeks before the start of breeding.
All cows are then given their annual booster shot of Bovilis BVD four weeks before the start of the breeding season.
Bovilis BVD is licensed to provide foetal protection. When administered at the correct time; at least four weeks pre-breeding, it will provide protection to the foetus during the risk period.
The switch to dairying started in 2015 with the purchase of weanling dairy heifers. These were put in calf in spring 2016. He milked 108 cows in 2017, rising to 123 in 2018 and 147 last year. He plans to milk 168 this year. The milk is supplied to Glanbia.
He installed a 14-unit parlour and has the framework for an additional six units. Straw-bedded housing was replaced last year with cubicles.

“Twelve years ago, we had a BVD outbreak in the suckler herd. We had two persistently infected (PI) calves born. Ever since then, we vaccinate every year with Bovilis BVD. We haven’t had a PI or any issue with BVD on the farm since”


He is producing 470kg milk solids/cow, at 4.54% fat and 3.7% protein. Stocking rate is 3.75 cows/ha on the milking platform.
A dry farm and good grass management enabled the cows to be out day and night until mid-November last year. They were grazing during the day until 30 November.
All breeding is done by AI with the later calvers bred to Hereford and Angus bulls. Peter operates a 10-week breeding season. Last year, 93% had calved within six weeks. This year, calving started on 24 January. All bull calves and beef cross heifer calves are sold at two to three weeks old.
He employs one full-time worker – Liam Walsh, a local man from a dairy farming background. “I would be lost without him.”

Emphasis on disease prevention

Peter Brophy is a strong believer in the importance of strategic vaccination to control the major disease threats.
He works closely with his veterinary practitioner Lar Keenan of Barrowvale Veterinary Clinic in ensuring that his herd health programme is fit for purpose.
In addition to BVD, annual vaccination protocols are in place for Leptospirosis and Salmonellosis. He also operates a whole herd IBR vaccination programme.
He had a “bit of a pneumonia problem” in calves after going out to grass last year. This has led to the decision to vaccinate calves with Bovilis® Bovipast RSP this year. They will get a primary shot at around two weeks of age followed by a booster shot four weeks later.

Dairy start-up course a massive help

Peter’s father died when he was two years old. His mother Margaret continued to run the farm which at that time consisted of sheep and breeding thoroughbred horses.
After completing secondary school, Peter studied maths and economics in UCD and after graduating went on to study for an MSc in business management in Dublin City University (DCU).
Half way through the post-graduate course, his mother got ill and he was forced to suspend his studies and come back to help run the farm.
He started to build a suckler herd which peaked at 100 cows. The heifer calves were reared to beef and the bulls were sold as weanlings to exporters.
Frustrated with the returns from suckling, he decided that for the farm to have a viable future he needed to develop a dairy enterprise.
He did a Teagasc dairy start-up course which was run by Abigail Ryan. He found this to be “of massive benefit.”
He is a member of the Greenfield Academy discussion group which is coordinated by Abigail Ryan and meets once a month.


The Brophy family home is at Shankill, Paulstown, a couple of miles from the dairy unit, across the Kilkenny/Carlow county boundary. “We are proud Kilkenny people.”

Margaret is still actively in involved in horse breeding on land around the family home. This and another portion of land nearby is also used for silage and grazing replacements.
The Brophy name is well known in horse racing circles. Notable breeding successes include the grade 1 mare Voler La Vedette and, in more recent times, the gelding Good Boy Bobby.

“We lost 3 animals in 10 days due to clostridial disease” Donegal sheep farmer shares his story

Sheep Roadshow

This year, in collaboration with XL vets and XL vets skillnet, we are raising awareness regarding the importance of animal health and well-being to the productivity and performance of sheep farming. Based on the successful Beef Weaning and Housing Roadshow that took place in seven marts across the country in 2018, this Sheep Health “Roadshow” will not take place in marts, but rather will feature on digital platforms such as this website and social media as we visit a number of farms across the country. This plan was put in place well before the current restrictions were implemented in the attempt to slow spread of COVID-19. At this time, we would like to take the opportunity to remind all those reading to ensure to follow all guidelines provided by the HSE in order to protect ourselves, the community and those that are most vulnerable.

Despite the pandemic we face, farming continues. For the purpose of this article and video below, we are sharing information regarding pasteurella pneumonia and clostridial diseases in sheep and measures by which farmers and veterinarians can take to prevent mortality as a result of the aforementioned diseases. Please share the link to this page with those who may benefit from this information. For further information, visit and/or

Beef and sheep farming in Co.Donegal

“Three cattle deaths in the space of 10 days – I now know the importance of vaccination”, this was the message from Donegal beef and sheep farmer John Meehan. John has been farming in Ballyshannon all his life and has built a fine enterprise. Originally beef farming only, John made the decision some 15 years ago to enter sheep production. The flock consists of Suffolk and Texel cross ewes that start lambing on March 1st every year. In conjunction with his vet, Nick Garvey of Old Church Vets Ballyshannon, the preventative approach with regard to animal health is fundamental to the performance of John Meehan’s farm.

Clostridial vaccination on farm

Vaccination against clostridial disease is a necessity on this farm. However, vaccination was only implemented after three beef animals were lost to sudden death as a result of clostridial disease several years ago. “We lost three animals in ten days due to clostridial disease. When the first animal died, we were obviously disappointed but didn’t pass much remarks. When the second animal died, we then got the vet out and subsequently sent the animal to the lab for a post-mortem. By the time the results returned, we had lost another animal.” Following these mortalities, lab results and the advice from Nick, a vaccination programme was put in place to prevent any further mortalities due to clostridial disease.

Pasteurella pneumonia and clostridial diseases

When sheep arrived on farm, “it was an obvious decision that a vaccination programme was put in place for the flock” according to John. John consulted Nick as to the best programme to implement and Nick advised Heptavac-P plus for the prevention of pasteurella pneumonia and clostridial disease in sheep. All sheep that are new on the farm, including new-born lambs, receive two vaccination shots. Any animal that has received this primary course only gets one vaccination booster every 12 months. “Since we have started to vaccinate against pasteurella pneumonia and clostridial disease, we have not suffered any losses due to these diseases.”

Barriers to vaccination

Farmers encounter many barriers when they consider animal health and vaccinating their flock. According to Nick, “Labour, economics, vaccine value and vaccination administration” are all common challenges farmers face when considering vaccination. In response, John was in agreement that these are challenges farmers face quite regularly and not just for vaccination. “If I had known what I know now about the risks of clostridial disease to animals, I would have vaccinated straight away”. John tries to implement labour saving techniques when vaccinating where possible. “I purchased an automatic syringe, we save time when vaccinating as we don’t have to fill the syringe for every vaccination. We also have suitable handling facilities that makes the job easier and, in my opinion, suitable handling facilities are a must when working with sheep in particular”. Currently happy with his animal health protocol, John stressed that there is “unseen value” in the role of the preventative approach in farming. One animal mortality would “vaccinate a lot of sheep!” according to John. It is important to be proactive rather than reactive with animal health, “don’t wait until you have a death, get it fixed before it’s broken” advised John.