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.”


WATCH – ” We lost 10 calves one year. We have lost none since”

Kieran Flatley of Harrington Farms in Kilkelly, County Mayo talks about the improvement in their weanling calves over the last few years as a result of implementing a vaccination programme to protect them against pneumonia.

Kieran Flatley gives an insight into Harrigton Farms in Kilkelly, Co. Mayo where they calve down 160 sucklers cows in the spring.

Earlier this year, Kieran applied for the BEEP-S scheme. As part of the scheme, farmers had to apply before 15th May 2020. When applying, they had to indicate what actions they would undertake. See figure 1 below which outlines the actions points of the scheme.

Figure 1: The Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme – Sucklers for 2020

For more information on the BEEP – S, click here


WATCH: Pre-weaning tips, vaccination protocols and BEEP-S overview

Watch: See the videos highlighting some pre-weaning tips, suitable vaccination protocols and an overview on the BEEP-S scheme.
Watch: BEEP-S overview and how to correctly qualify for payment if you selected vaccination under Action 2 of the scheme

The objective of the Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme for Sucklers (BEEP-S) is to further increase economic and environmental efficiency in the suckler herd though improvement in the quantity and quality of performance data that is collected.

One of the voluntary measures under Action 2 of the BEEP-S is vaccination. The objective of this action is for farmers to implement a vaccination programme to reduce the incidence of bovine respiratory disease caused by certain viruses and bacteria otherwise known as pathogens. Bovine Respiratory Disease or BRD as it is also known, refers to diseases that affect the respiratory system of cattle. The best-known example of BRD in cattle is pneumonia.

Watch: Suzanne Naughton highlights some pre-weaning tips and suitable vaccination protocols ahead of the upcoming weaning/housing/sale period

It is advised that all applicants should consult with their attending veterinary practitioner for the most suitable vaccination programme for their farm. To qualify for payment, date of vaccine administration and purchase receipts must be kept on file and made available to Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) upon inspection.

Why is vaccination part of this programme?

A correctly timed vaccination programme in conjunction with correct animal management can have both an economic and labour-saving result for the farmer.

Vaccination programmes can:

  • Improve the welfare of the animals. Vaccines can reduce the risk of an animal becoming infected by certain disease pathogens
  • Reduce the risk of animals becoming ill which reduces the need for antibiotic treatment
  • Protect animals during risk periods. Examples are weaning, housing, mixing of groups, transport, mart trade etc.
  • Reduce sick days for animals while also maintaining thrive, allowing animals to reach key target weights

Studies show beef cattle with obvious signs of pneumonia can take over 59 days longer to finish than healthy animals. Even animals showing little or no sickness can be suffering from subclinical respiratory disease which will increase finishing times to slaughter. See figure 1 below:

Figure 1. Negative effects of BRD on finishing times1

Purpose of Action 2 – vaccination

If you selected vaccination as part of Action 2 of the programme you will need to familiarise yourself with the disease pathogens you are trying to protect your cattle against, the vaccines suitable for the programme and their protocols. Let’s start with the disease pathogens. The vaccination pillar of the programme aims at reducing the disease incidence caused by BRD which is illustrated in figure 2:

Pathogen namePathogen typeKnown as
Respiratory Syncytial VirusVirusRSV
Parainfluenza-3VirusPI3
Bovine herpes virus type 1 (BoHV-1), (Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis)VirusIBR
Mannhaemia haemolyticaBacteriaMannhaemia (Pasteurella) haemolytica
Figure 2. List of disease pathogens the programme aims to protect calves against through vaccination

For the purpose of this programme, Teagasc are advocating the importance of vaccinating calves against all four pathogens listed in figure 2 where possible. If inspected, you must provide receipts to show proof of purchase and a record of vaccine administration dates in order to satisfy Action 2 of the programme.

Applicants must choose one of the following vaccination protocols to qualify for payment:

Option 1. (if there is adequate time before risk period or a broader coverage including bacteria is required)

  • First subcutaneous injection of RSV, PI3 and Mannhaemia haemolytica dead vaccine, six to eight weeks before weaning/housing/sale
  • Second subcutaneous injection of RSV, PI3 and Mannhaemia haemolytica dead vaccine, two to four weeks before weaning/housing/sale
  • At the same time as the second injection, a single IBR live intra-muscular, two to four weeks before weaning/housing/sale

Option 2. (if there is a short time before risk period or if cattle can only be handled once)

  • Single RSV and Pi3 Intranasal two to four weeks before weaning/housing/sale
  • At the same time, a single (or two dose programme) IBR live intra-muscular injection (two to four weeks before weaning/housing/sale)

MSD Animal Health has the full portfolio of BRD vaccines to provide protection against the four pathogens listed in figure 2. Figure 3 below displays the disease pathogen each product provides protection against and the specific vaccination protocol.

Figure 3. MSD Animal Health BRD vaccine portfolio suitable for the BEEP-S scheme

MSD Animal Health are advising all farmers to implement a vaccination protocol using Bovipast RSP and Bovilis IBR Marker Live. Benefits of this programme:

  • Combination of these vaccines will provide protection against all four pathogens
  • The two vaccines are licenced to be administered on the same day
  • Bovipast RSP provides the BROADEST cover against Mannhaemia haemolytica that’s available on the market
  • Bovilis IBR Marker Live provides the FASTEST onset of immunity compared to competitor product

Bovipast RSP

Bovilis Bovipast RSP
Bovilis Bovipast RSP
  • Provides protection against RSV, PI3 and the BROADEST protection against Mannhaemia ((Pasteurella) haemolytica
  • Inactivated or dead vaccine
  • Two shot primary course given four weeks apart. One shot is 5ml
  • The second shot must be given no later that two weeks prior to weaning, sale or housing
    • 1st shot six weeks prior to risk 
    • 2nd shot two weeks prior to risk
  • Subcutaneous injection (under the skin)
Bovilis IBR Marker Live
Bovilis IBR Marker Live

Bovilis IBR Marker Live

  • Provides the FASTEST onset of immunity against IBR
  • Live vaccine
  • Single 2ml shot given at least two weeks prior to weaning, sale or housing
  • Intranasal (up the nose) or intramuscular (into the muscle) injection
  • Both intranasal and intramuscular administration will give 6 months protection when given to stock over 3 months old.
Bovilis INtranasal RSP Live
Bovilis INtranasal RSP Live

Bovilis INtranasal RSP Live

  • Provides the FASTEST onset of immunity against RSV and Pi3
  • Live vaccine
  • Single 2ml shot given at least one week prior to weaning, sale or housing
  • Intranasal administration
  • Provides 12 weeks protection against RSV & PI3

MSD Animal Health are advising all farmers to consult with their attending veterinary practitioner prior to implementing a vaccination protocol.

If inspected, you must provide receipts to show proof of purchase and a record of vaccine administration dates in order to satisfy Action 2 of the programme.

References
Bareille et al. 2008. Impact technique et économique des troubles respiratoires des jeunes bovins lors de l’engraissement. Rencontres autour des recherches sur les ruminants: 77-80.