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Plan for pregnancy testing – Six weeks after the last mating is the earliest that empties can be called. Please book your scan in early so we can give you the date and time of your choice. Most farms will need 2 scans for accurate ageing of all cows (the window is 40 to 90 days pregnant).
Make sure eartags are clear & readable, replace any missing tags, and sort out any MINDA queries, double-up cow numbers etc, to make the scanning day smoother and to make sure the information flows correctly when synchronising into Infovet.
The facial eczema season is coming – the best way to know if you need to start zinc is to bring in some grass so we can perform a spore count for your own farm. A week after you start providing the cows with the full recommended dose of zinc, you should check to see if the cows are actually getting this zinc at a therapeutic level, by either blood testing 15 cows, or doing a bulk milk zinc test. The cows must get zinc at the correct level, or they will not be protected against facial eczema (and you are wasting your money).
BMSCC is starting to increase for some – we have several trained mastitis assessors within the clinics to help keep a lid on it. Some milk cultures are a good place to start, along with a Mastitis Warrant of Fitness.
Plan your autumn-calving drying off – work out timings to allow for any dry cow withholdings and remember to order product early.
Pregnancy testing heifers is important. Heifers too can be pregnancy tested from as early as six weeks after removing the bull. Keep a watch for any early abortions –diagnosis of a cause usually requires both blood from the heifer and fresh aborted material.
Have a summer feed plan with your grazier in case feed gets short – everyone likes to know so they can help early on rather than seeing under-sized animals returning home.
Get them ready for grazing, and let the grazier know their status: lepto / 5 in 1/ BVD vax / last drench / last mineral treatments (copper capsule, B12/Selenium injection) so they can carry on after your hard work rearing them through spring. We have Animal Health Arrival/Departure cards which can capture this information for the grazier.
Weight gain and growth is key. Regular weighing will help identify those that are struggling and will allow targeted feeding or other interventions to make sure none are falling behind.
Lepto vaccinations are continuing: 4 – 6weeks in between first and second ( + BVD + Salmonella…).
Yersinia has been rearing its head with the lush pasture. Getting a correct diagnosis and treating early will avoid any checks in growth rates. It’s certainly on the list if they’re looking poor/scouring despite regular drenching.
Look after yourselves in the sun (when it’s out!), and hopefully you each enjoy a break off farm at some point.
Have a great Christmas and New Year.
I was called to see a sick calf on a large dairy farm towards the end of the day. The farm is nestled right in beside the Pureora forest up the end of a long gravel road. Absolutely beautiful part of the country with gorgeous views from the road. So I made my way up there wondering what I would find when I got there. I met the farm worker and he showed me to the calf which they had noticed earlier that day was not right and had later gone down.
Well things had got a lot worse since they had seen it last because it was now dead. Since I was already there, I decided that if we open the calf up we may discover why it died. So I began the post mortem and the calf was still warm so had only just died. The first issue I noticed was digested milk in the abdomen. That's not where it was supposed to be and I immediately suspected a hole in the abomasum (4th stomach). I searched for the likely organ and sure enough there was a hole in the abomasum, leaking stomach contents all where it was not supposed to be.
I explained to the farmer that it was probably a good thing it died before I got there as I was unlike to diagnose that in a live calf and it would have died regardless.
What is interesting about this is last season they had several dead calves and I had done post mortems on a couple and they had both had the same thing. So this farm clearly has factors that make it higher risk for abomasal ulcers. So I looked into things that cause stomach ulcers in calves.
Turns out the stomach ulcers in calves are quite common and if they get severe enough, this can result in a stomach perforation. What is less clear is the factors that cause them. Some say not enough fibre in the diet can lead to ulcers, others say too much fibre is the cause. A colleague had an outbreak of stomach perforations years ago where they attributed it to having the fibre length too short. Overseas stomach perforations are mainly found in veal calves which are feed a lot of milk. The farm I have found them in does give ad lib milk to their calves, so that may be a factor, but we can’t be sure. A quick look in the text book mentions the following risk factors: bacterial infection of the abomasal wall, failure of passive transfer from colostrum, foreign body ingestion, poor milk hygiene, once a day feeding and the use of cold milk.
This case does highlight the benefits of post mortems on animals if you are getting more deaths than expected. Because we at least know why these calves have died.
As we head into the drier months of the year, you might start to see more pinkeye on farm. Pinkeye is a common and contagious disease caused by a few different bacteria. It can result in ulceration of the eyeball which can lead to loss of the eye. It generally requires damage to the external surface of the eyeball before an infection can take hold; this is commonly caused by the eyeball scratching on dry grass, hay, or dust but even UV damage can be enough to cause it. Once the eyeball is damaged, the offending bacteria are easily spread around by flies and facial contact. Both the bacteria and the immune system ‘melt’ the surface of the eye, and a large ulcer quickly forms. It usually has a pus-filled centre with angry pink inflammation around it (see photo).
Treatment is with antibiotic eye ointment, but severe cases may need a bit more help. Anti-inflammatories(eg Ketomax or Metacam) are always helpful too. If the wound is so large that the eyeball is at risk of rupture, it is a simple surgery for the vet to come out and stitch the eyelids closed to protect the eye while it heals.
There is a vaccine for prevention of pinkeye, called Piliguard, but once an outbreak is occurring, it is often too late to vaccinate. Making sure that you are not overstocked and removing affected animals from the mob is the best way to prevent pinkeye or to reduce the severity of an outbreak.
A similar-looking disease is the damage caused by a foreign object to the eye; often grass seeds at this time of year. You will need to properly restrain the animal to have a good look in its eye and remove the grass seed. A bit of eye ointment and a shot of anti-inflammatories (eg Ketomax or Metacam) doesn’t hurt either.
Cancers of the 3rd eyelid and eye tissues are very common in dairy cattle. They occur due to UV damage and progressively grow and get worse. Cattle won’t be able to be transported if the growth/tumour is too large (over 2cm) or if it is leaking blood or fluid, so it’s best to remove them early.
When the growth is restricted to just the third eyelid, it is a simple procedure for a vet to come out and remove the cancer. When the cancer has grown into the other tissues surrounding the eye, the eye might be able to be removed entirely.
Otherwise, slaughter on-farm may be the only option. Recurrence of removed eye cancers is unfortunately fairly common. If you are unsure about whether an animal is fit for transport, ring your local Vetora clinic to get a vet out to have a look.
The BVD (Bovine Viral Diarrhoea) bulk milk results will have no doubt been flooding many of your mailboxes now or within the next month. This article is not about the disease itself but focussing on what the graph means.
To get the most out of it we will break down the graph for you so
a) you understand what you are looking at and
b) that together we can evaluate the risks and costs of having BVD infection on your farm (or keeping it free from BVD).
These stars quantify the antibody test result which indicates your herd’s exposure to BVD. The level of antibody needs to be interpreted with care and in context with your herd’s individual management and biosecurity risks. Most herds that have had BVD infection in the past few seasons will have a result that sits in the high to very high range.
The arrow at the top of the graph is very important as it represents the test for detecting the BVD virus. The white arrow is a negative result, meaning that there were no cows infected with BVD milking into the vat on that day. A red arrow means there is at least one cow in the herd that has BVD virus infection. A red arrow warrants further investigation as we know there is an infection in the herd but not whether this is a persistent infection (PI) or a transient infection (TI). However, a white arrow may also need further investigation depending on the individual scenario; for example, if there is a large jump in antibody level.
It is important to remember that the bulk milk test is good for screening for BVD infection within the herd, however, it is not without its limitations. The biggest limitation is that there may be BVD positive animals on the farm, but a negative bulk tank would show up if these cattle were not being milked into the vat. This can include pregnant cows, lame cows, sick cows, dry cows or even bulls (if they have not already been tested and vaccinated).
To help you understand; the graph above shows that last year there were high circulating antibodies within the herd, but previous two tests last season have returned negative BVD infection in the herd.
The first milk result for this season so far has returned a positive virus result, which means there is at least one milking cow in the herd with BVD infection.
To break this down further there are a few details to be ascertained:
Once we answer these questions, we can then start a focused investigation to target testing in the hunt for the infected cow.
The economic costs to a naïve herd have been conservatively reported as being $22.22 per cow/year. The biggest economic impact can occur when a persistently infected first calver enters the herd causing transient infections to the existing milking herd and a subsequent drop in milk production.
There are a few aspects to the disease which can complicate an investigation, so it is a good idea to get in contact with us (if we haven’t already with you) to help you get the best out of this screening tool!
We are at the end of my favourite period of the year - ‘the calving season’. Compared to last year, the season was relatively slow with less difficulties. But I did run into a few “odd” calvings.
While on a routine farm visit, the farmer asked if I could check a heifer as she is not in calf but “there is something hanging out.”
After an inspection, there seemed to be something stuck in the vaginal area making it impossible to get my hand in. The Rectal exam gave me even more question marks because I could feel the mass before the cervix with a small little uterus behind it. I decided to push it out with my hand in the rectum, and out came a dinosaur looking creature. A mummified calf that looked like apterodactyl. The heifer was never sick, and she was even cycling.
Mummification of a foetus can happen in certain circumstances. If the foetus dies in the womb during late pregnancy and the conditions of the reproductive tract prevent adequate decomposition and fluid drainage. As a result, the foetal tissues gradually dehydrate and mummify. It is considered to be a rare event.
At another calving where I had students with me, after a quick check, I knew something strange was going on. I felt a big balloon with loose bones and a sort of socket with some tissue sticking out. I found some ears on the big mass and teeth. So I knew it must be a head. We then decided to cut it out which was a good training exercise for the students with handling the fetotome and the use of wire.
Unfortunately, the head shown in the picture below does not depict how big it actually was, the fluid drained as soon as it came out. The eyes were out of the eye sockets, and loose skull bones were floating in the skin.
Hydrocephalusis a rare condition characterised by abnormal accumulation of cerebro spinal fluids within the brain. There are various causes and risk factors, some may be congenital, an infection or exposure to toxins during pregnancy, and nutritional imbalances could also contribute.
Although cases like these are unfortunate for both the farmer and the cow, they do make our job more interesting. All the best to you all!
November is here, and with it the long hot days of summer are close.
Cows feel the heat, just like we all do - they produce a lot of heat during the rumination and fermentation process, which is helpful during winter, but not great during the heat of summer. It has been well proven that when cows are unable to manage heat load, their feed intake and production will be significantly affected. The Dairy NZ website has some great information about heat stress and the impact on production. The combination of summer warmth and humidity in the Waikato means for our cows on average there are 70 to 80 days per year that will stress the herd enough to reduce production, with an average annual impact of 6 to 7 kg MS per cow. These numbers are for Friesians and Crossbreds – Jerseys are a little more heat tolerant.
Any shade is great, but nothing beats the shade from a leafy green tree. It has also been proven that cows will choose trees over artificial shelter - you can feel the difference yourself between a sun shelter or a tin roof versus a tree. The best advice I’ve been given about planting trees is don’t just plant a tree for a single reason. Summer shade is a great reason, but think about benefits of a deciduous tree for more winter sun, or an evergreen to give more shelter during storms. You might want to plant trees that can double as firewood species, or timber, or to attract birds and pollinators. And don’t overlook the dollars - trees can add to a farm value purely due to aesthetics.
November is a terrible time to be planting trees, but it is a great time to get some trees ordered for a planting program for next autumn or winter. It can be a bit discouraging if you want shade right now and don’t have the patience for trees to grow! Another reason to start planning as soon as possible. Poplars and eucalypts grow rapidly, and will start producing really useful amounts of shade within 3 or 4 years.
In the short term, things you can do to help a little include making sure cows have plenty of access to water around the shed, putting up artificial shelter around the shed and altering milking times to avoid the heat of the day. Sprinklers are useful, but need to soak cows to the skin to be effective - fans help assist evaporative heat loss. There is a proverb that says ‘The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best is now’. Maybe not right this second, but start making plans and get it done!
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All the best for the rest of mating.
The best thing you can do is make sure that your dog is at either their ideal weight or a bit on the skinny side.
A journal article in 2006 found that dogs fed a restricted diet did not develop their first signs of arthritis, by X-rays, until they were12 years of age. Dogs fed ad-libitum, and therefore overweight, developed signs of arthritis at 6 years of age.
This is an amazing difference! Keep your dog lean and mean is a very good idea. Especially in large breed dogs that are prone to elbow and hip arthritis.
At Vetora our nurses can weigh your dogs and make sure they are the correct weight. We have a range of diets to help with weight loss and the management of arthritis.
Share the link below with farm staff for a refresher: https://www.dairynz.co.nz/animal/reproduction-and-mating/heat-detection/observing-cows-to-detect-heats/
As a pet owners it is our responsibility to keep our pets safe, happy and healthy. Vaccinating your pet is one essential step you can take that will achieve all three of these goals.
Vaccines help develop your pets immune system against various diseases, making them less susceptible to illnesses. Vaccines not only protect your own pet but also reduce the spread of diseases within the pet population. They are particularly important if your pet goes into kennels, visits dog parks, boarding facilities or grooming services.
Vaccinations are ideally started at 6-8 weeks old followed by booster vaccinations given every 3-4 weeks until they’re about 4 months old. If you’re unsure about your pets vaccine history, speak to your veterinarian-we can start them again at any time.
When your pet visits us for their vaccination they will have a thorough health check, this includes
Once your pet has had their kitten/puppy vaccines they’re often boostered yearly, though this can vary with each patient and can be extended to two yearly. Speaking to your veterinarian will ensure your pet receives the best vaccine schedule for their particular need. Some factors that can influence this may be pets age, health status, lifestyle and risk of exposure to various diseases. As your pet gets older, the yearly health checks are also a great opportunity to check for potential arthritic changes, lumps/bumps and regular monitoring for any other changes in health that comes with getting older.
We love to love your pet too, if you’d like for us to see your pet please contact the clinic.
Last weekend when I was on duty, I got called out to see a sick cow. The cow was walking very slow and had a sudden drop in milk production. On clinical exam, her heart, lungs and temperature were normal. She had a yellow vulva and when I took a blood sample, the blood was much ‘thinner’ than it should be. Those are typical signs of Theileria and the lab confirmed my diagnoses a few days later.
Interestingly enough, three of my other colleagues have seen Theileria cases in the Tokoroa/Mangakino area too this week. About eight to ten years ago when we saw the first new strain of Theileria (Ikeda) cases in cows in the North Island, we had some farms where a high percentage of the herd was affected, and I have done many blood transfusions to try to save cows’ lives (fortunately that was successful in all but one case!). Since then Theileria has become more endemic: it is a constant presence and most cows have at least some immunity against it. Therefore, we don’t see many very severe affected cows anymore.
Theileria is a tiny (only 1 cell!) parasite that gets transferred to cattle by ticks. When ticks carrying Theileria feed on cattle, the parasite gets into their bloodstream and enters red blood cells. In some animals, sufficient red blood cells are destroyed to cause anaemia: there are not enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen around. This often presents as weak/slow cows with a drop in milk production. Often these cows have a very white or jaundiced (yellow) mucosae. In cows it is often easiest to check the mucosal colour in the vulva (should be pink) or the third eyelid (should be white).
This week we had quite a few queries about Theileria, ticks and treatment, so here is a short refresher:
Ticks only spend about three weeks out of the year on cattle (they mainly live on pastures and also on rabbits, hares etc). Because tickicides have a limited duration of effect (3 to 6 weeks), it is unlikely that even with frequent tick application, Theileria can be totally prevented. Tickicides maybe useful in some cases, please contact your vet if you need farm specific advice.
We all know the importance of heat detection – every missed heat means a delay of 3 weeks before the cow’s next chance of getting back in calf. And no matter how good your heat detection practices are, a human is never going to detect as many cows on heat as a bull will. (Sex is a powerful motivator.)
Teaser bulls are vasectomised bulls – they still have testes so they still produce testosterone, and they look and act like bulls, but the vas deferens (the tube that sperm swim down) is tied off so that they’re no longer fertile.
Using teaser bulls:
You can buy or hire a teaser bull for the season –alternatively, you can make your own. Keep a few bull calves and get them vasectomised by the vet around the time of weaning. Our normal protocol is to castrate one side and vasectomise the other – they still make plenty of testosterone, but with only one testicle, they are easily identified as teasers. (We can vasectomise bigger bulls too; it’s just a bit scarier to stand right behind a bigger animal while you do surgery on his scrotum.)
A vasectomised bull calf will be working as a teaser the next season, at 15 months old. After he’s been used in the herd, he can be kept another year – or, if you prefer not to keep bulls on farm year-round, we can castrate him so he can be fattened for the freezer.
If we badly sprained our ankle or stub our toe badly what’s the first thing we reach for? Normally pain relief like paracetamol or ibuprofen. When a cow is lame however we don’t always jump to the same treatment. Make no mistake, cows are not “tough”, they feel pain just as you or I do.
Most lameness in NZ dairy cows (approx. 80%!!) is due to inflammation and damage to the soft tissue (corium) The injuries slowly grow down and are visible as lesions months later.
Around calving the fat pad becomes thinner and the ligaments inside the hoof relax, making the corium more susceptible to damage. Early identification prior to mating can dramatically reduce future lameness risks. Early treatment will get the cow feeling better and grazing quicker, which will help to minimise any drop in productivity and body condition.
KetoMax is a high potency non-steroidal anti-inflammatory for treating pain, fever, and inflammation in cattle. Contains ketoprofen 150mg/mL in solution for intramuscular injection. Ketoprofen is rapidly and extensively absorbed following injection, so has a rapid onset of action. The effects of ketoprofen are attributed to its inhibition of the inflammatory process.
The most successful treatments for lame cows are:
With a Nil withhold for Milk and only 2 days for meat it is an easy-to-use treatment for pain, inflammation, and fever in cattle.
Dose for cattle: 1 mL / 50 kg / day for 1 to 3 days depending on the severity and duration of symptoms eg 500kg cow is an easy daily dose at 10mL.
Lameness is one of the most painful and prevalent conditions in dairy cows, so make sure you have KetoMax available at the cow shed, and reach for it when treating lame cows just as we would at home.
This viral infection of dogs, especially puppies, is very serious disease that if not treated will probably result in their death. The puppy will become lethargic, not want to eat, start vomiting and often develop a very bloody smelly diarrhoea. Young, small puppies that are not fully vaccinated are most susceptible to this viral infection.
The virus is a very hardy bug that can last in the environment for years. That is why some puppies have contracted parvo on a property where there may have been unwell dogs in the past, with no recent history of contact with a sick puppy or dog.
Summer appears to be the time of the year when we see these sick “parvo” pups. This is also the time of the year when a lot of people get their puppy and when this virus is probably more prevalent in the environment.
The best way to protect your puppy is by vaccination. The vaccine is very effective and safe. Fully vaccinated puppies and dogs very rarely get parvo. Vaccination can start as early as 6 weeks and the last vaccination should be at 16 weeks. Your pup is not fully protected until a week after their last vaccination. Before this time you should be keeping your puppy on your property. They should not be taken for walks around the neighbourhood or in parks. They should not be socializing with any dog that is not vaccinated, been unwell or been at a dog control facility as these groups of animals and facilities pose an increased risk for your puppy getting parvo.
Treatment of parvo is very expensive. The reason is that your puppy will have to be hospitalized in isolation for several days on fluids and being given an assortment of drugs. Unfortunately, despite all this time, effort and money these sick puppies can die. A dead puppy and a large vet bill is not what anyone wants!
The take home message is that parvo virus is always going to be a problem and it is a killer. Vaccination is an absolute must for all puppies. Vaccination is a cheap insurance policy for your dog. Vaccination saves Lives.
Now is an excellent time for all Fonterra suppliers to reflect on the Co-operative Difference Animal Wellbeing Plan completed in conjunction with vets at RVM time. The rationale for these plans is that “customers and consumers increasingly require that food producers demonstrate that animals are healthy, productive, contented and treated with respect throughout their lives”. Thus, the Co-operative Difference is an opportunity for farmers to demonstrate that this is happening on their farm, and to benchmark some standards that can constantly be improved on. Vets are passionate about animal wellbeing, so keep checking in with you vet about how we can help you to keep raising the wellbeing bar.
Have a good run-up to mating!
Recently EpiVets published a study to describe the time it takes for lame dairy cows to recover after diagnosis and treatment of claw horn lameness, and to investigate whether cure rates differed between farms.
Five dairy farms in the Waikato region were enrolled over two seasons. Lame cattle were diagnosed by the farmers if they had a lameness score (LS ≥ 2 on a 0–3 scale) and claw horn lesions. All enrolled animals were attended to by a single veterinarian following a consistent methodology, and then cows were lameness scored twice weekly until they were sound (LS = 0).
Overall, it took 18 (95% CI = 14–21) days for a lame cow to become sound. The study concluded that following industry best-practice lameness treatment guidelines, including frequent use of blocks, can result in rapid lameness cure rates in New Zealand dairy cows. How long cattle are lame for, before diagnosis and treatment (picking them up and paring them and putting blocks on) is an important predictor of how fast they recover. Therefore, the best way farmers can improve how fast their cattle recover is to diagnose and attend to lame cattle quickly. The best way to do this is likely regular lameness scoring as by the time you notice her being lame, she has likely been that way for a long time.
The start of mating is just around the corner for dairy herds, which always raises the question of the best way to manage non-cycling cows. It is an even bigger question given the recent decrease in forecasted milk payout and the conditions leading up to the2023 mating season.
Many herds milked late at the end of last season, so cows had less time than in other seasons to recover and put on condition during the dry period. Following on the heels of this shorter dry period, cold wet weather during calving has resulted in slow grass growth and poor feed quality. This all increases the time that cows take to start cycling properly after calving and could result in increased numbers of non-cyclers in your herd.
The first step to managing the non-cycling cows is finding them! Heat detection aids need to be applied by 35 days before the start of mating to allow enough time to pick up cows that aren’t cycling. Pre-mating heat detection means you know whether your herd has high numbers of non-cycling cows, and you can make decisions about appropriate treatment early, rather than realizing that your herd is in trouble after AB has already started.
Treating non-cyclers makes money in the long-term, as treated cows get in calf earlier and have more days in milk next season. There are two key pitfalls that can reduce profitability from a non-cycler treatment program, and a drop in milk payout makes it more important than ever to avoid these. Firstly, you will make the most profit from treating non-cycling cows before mating starts, and the later you leave it the less money you will make from a treatment program. Secondly, the most profitable treatment program is the one that produces the best conception rate, so use the best program you can afford.
Now is the perfect time to make a budget and work out how much money you can assign to treatment of non-cyclers. Work with your vet to plan the best approach for your herd, which may include options like targeting treatment towards only some of your non-cycling cows.
We acknowledge that farm finances are tight this season and so are offering free early pregnancy scanning of non cycling cows treated before the start of mating.
Coccidia is a single celled gut parasite which usually affects calves between 3-8 months of age. While it usually occurs in older animals, it can affect those as young as 4 weeks. The effect of this parasite on stock can vary. It can be subclinical, in that a given animal can be infected but not show any outward signs of ill health. On the other end of the spectrum, coccidia can lead to significant gut upset, growth checks, and even the death of those affected. The severity of symptoms seen depends on the animal’s immune system and how heavy the coccidia burden is. Coccidia has a more detrimental effect on health when it is seen alongside the following conditions: increased stress, poor nutrition, and diseases (such as BVD). Symptoms are usually seen ~2 weeks after exposure.
Symptoms commonly seen:
Coccidia uses the cells in the intestines to reproduce, destroying them as they emerge. This effectively damages the intestinal lining, decreasing the ability of the animal to absorb nutrients and retain water. Hence the weight loss and dehydration, despite good feed availability. These signs can continue for typically 7-10 days, after which, in the absence of reinfection, the calf will often begin to recover. However, depending on the degree of damage, it can take weeks for the gut to recover and until it does, feed intake and weight gains will be reduced.
Like a lot of the parasites we deal with, coccidia is shed in the faeces and infection occurs via ingestion of contaminated pasture, feed and water. Infection can also occur through grooming, again via inadvertent ingestion of contaminated faeces that are on the animal’s coat.
Coccidia is a hardy organism, being able to survive in pasture for up to 2 years when the conditions are not too dry or hot. If the same paddocks are used for calves from year to year and the weather conditions mild, coccidia outbreaks can be seen. Outbreaks can also occur when the feeding of coccidiostat containing feed stops as it takes time for calves to build an immunity to coccidia.
If you suspect stock may have coccidia, you can bring in a fresh faecal sample to check for coccidia.
As coccidia can infect a significant proportion of animals in a mob without all of them showing signs of obvious sickness, a big part of management is prevention. This involves feeding milk and meal with coccidiostats in them and using drenches that are also effective against coccidia. Preventative management practices revolve around rotational grazing if applicable and ensuring an appropriate stocking density. Where animals are ill, treatment involves separating them from the rest of the mob and oral dosing them with toltrazuril (BaycoxC) which is usually given as a one-off treatment. Most animals should recover if caught and treated early.
After what can be described as a difficult season, by adding Rumenox to your management tool box it will help your Dairy cows perform better.
Rumenox is a rumen modifier that contains the active ingredient monensin. Rumenox provides more energy to dairy cows by adjusting bacteria populations in the rumen. This extra energy is utilised to increase cow performance and reduce metabolic disease.
More Cows In Calf
The extra energy that Rumenox provides can lead to improved reproductive performance through improved cow condition and reduced ketosis. A range of controlled studies show the effect of Rumenox on cow health.
Recent Dairy NZ studies show 75% of New Zealand dairy herds tested are affected by sub-clinical ketosis. This disease has now been strongly linked to increased endometritis and a staggering 7% reduction in six week in-calf rates.
Rumenox significantly reduces ketosis. Studies consistently show a 40% reduction in the disease.
For optimum results, Rumenox should be introduced pre-calving, or if not practical, it should be added to feed as soon as the dairy herd returns to the milking platform in early spring.
Milk Protein Production
Rumenox increases the amount of propionate produced in a cow’s rumen, which leads to increased milk protein production. There is significant evidence in NZ and Australian pasture based systems of this effect. In 17 NZ/Australia pasture studies, treated cows produced an average of 40g more milk protein per cow/day.
Rumenox is an effective bloat control strategy. It creates a fermentation shift in the rumen which leads to a reduction in methane gas production, this gas is one of the key contributors to bloat.
Rumenox has a lasting effect of 24-48 hours, unlike conventional bloat detergents which are shorter lived in the rumen.
This duration of activity is particularly important when relying on water medication for bloat control e.g. dosatron. Cows don’t always drink regularly, in fact, they drink very little on wet days. When treating with conventional bloat detergents, cows are vulnerable to a bloat challenge when drinking is restricted, due to their shorter duration of activity.
For this reason years of observational evidence strongly suggests that Rumenox outperforms conventional bloat detergents.
When it comes to improving body condition score, feeding is at the top of the list. There are very few other tools available that can contribute to achieving body condition score targets.
Introducing your cows to rumen modifiers such as Rumenox allows them to digest their feed more efficiently. It does this by producing more energy in the rumen from the feed consumed. Individual cows then determine where this energy is partitioned depending on their requirements at the time. There is significant evidence in NZ pasture-based systems showing a cow condition response.
Tail docking lambs
Lambs’ tails are docked to reduce their risk of flystrike. A long tail allows for dags which attract the flies increasing the risk and severity of flystrike in the summer.
Lambs’ tails can be docked up to 6 months of age and must be done with a rubber ring or hot iron. After 6 months it must be done surgically by a veterinarian.
The tail must be long enough to cover the vulva (and similar length in males). This protects the vulva from sun damage. Below this level can be painful. While we want the tails shorter to prevent flystrike, tails too short can also increase risk of flystrike and can also cause uterine prolapses after lambing.
Lambs should get their clostridial vaccinations before tail docking to ensure they are protected from tetanus.
The animal welfare regulations allow rubber ring castration in sheep, goats, and cattle until 6 months of age. After this time, it is required to be surgically done by a veterinarian. Often the testes will be too big to be rubber ringed successfully before they reach 6 month of age and should instead be done surgically by a veterinarian. It is a lot easier for us to surgically castrate than to fix a rubber ring job that has gone wrong. When using a rubber ring you need to ensure both testes are below the ring and make sure none of the teats are included (yes, like humans the males have nipples too). Horses and pigs must be castrated by a veterinarian with the necessary pain relief given.
If you are unsure about any castrations or tail docking we can do this from any age. These are painful procedures, and it is better to be done right.
Did you know mostcows are born with horns? There is a very common procedure in the dairy farmingindustry to prevent the growth of horns in calves called disbudding. It is doneby removing the horn buds from the calves between two to six weeks of age. It isa less invasive procedure at a young age when the horn buds have not yetattached to the skull, rather than when the horns are bigger.
The main reason fordisbudding calves is to prevent injury to themselves and other animals. Thereis also a great risk of injury to anyone handling the animals. Horns also makeit difficult for veterinary professionals and handlers to carry out basicprocedures safely.
Using localanaesthetic is a legal requirement when disbudding calves. Pairing this withsedation makes it quick, pain free and as minimally stressful for the calves aspossible. It is also a great opportunity for the calves to receive theirvaccinations, check navels and get rings put on. Once the local anaesthetic andsedation has kicked in, we use an electric hot iron. We also recommend calvesreceive long-acting pain relief as well which helps to speed up the recoveryand healing process for the calves. It is important for small blocks to havegood facilities such as a pen or yards with shelter over top so the calves towake up from sedation safely.
As spring approaches, its crucial to understand the duration of the birthing process for a seamless transition for your pregnant animals. If your animal is taking longer than the times below to complete a stage, please call us early so we can provide the best possible outcome for both mother and offspring.
Stageone starts when uterine contractions begin. The foetus moves towards the birthing canal, and you may see your animal becoming restless, separating from the others in the group and a reduced appetite. You will often see a raised tail and the vulva can have clear/yellow mucus discharge or membranes protruding out of it.
Timing for stage one
Stage two - membranes rupture and the foetus is delivered. You are likely to see obvious abdominal straining, shifting between recumbent/standing and ideally there will be 2 front feet and a nose at the vulva. This stage finishes when the foetus is completely out. There can be many reasons why a mother cannot push the foetus out, often due to malposition of the foetus, but the earlier we can intervene the better the outcome is for both mother and offspring.
Timing for stage two
Stage three is the passing of foetal membranes and the cervix closes. With this you should see placenta protruding from the vulva, there may be a small amount of bleeding/fluid draining out from the vulva and it is complete when the entire placenta is delivered. There should be one placenta for each foetus delivered.
Timing for stage three
Mastitis in dairy ewes: preliminary findings of a large study
Sheep milking is gaining momentum in New Zealand, catalysed by the drier at Innovation Park and the formation of Spring Sheep and Maui Milk. EpiVets is addressing the almost complete lack of systematically collected mastitis information by running multiple sub-studies on 20 dairy sheep farms from North Waikato to Canterbury. We will define the status quo so we can understand mastitis, clarify what “normal” is, set targets, agree on priorities, and develop tools and interventions for farmers.
Dairy sheep don’t get clinical mastitis as much as their bovine cousins, with a mean incidence of 2.5% and a farm-level incidence ranging from 0 to 6% (see graph – asterisks indicate farms that don’t start milking until weaning). Yes – some farms do not get clinical mastitis! However, it is also clear that clinical mastitis is often more subtle in sheep than cows, so there is probably some under diagnosis happening. Furthermore, several farmers do not start milking their ewes until weaning, so they miss the bulk of the clinical mastitis season.
Stand by for much more information!
Finding and curing more infected cows
Every time a cow calves she’s at risk of getting an infection in her uterus and not getting in calf. NZ studies show that 20% of cows are still infected 2-4 weeks after calving.
If she has an assisted calving, retained cleanings, twins or milk fever she’s most at risk. We call these cows “at risk cows”. However 70% of infected cows are not “at risk cows’ but cows with no problems at calving that don’t clear the infection.
Many of these cows seem to cure but instead the infection becomes trapped in front of a closed cervix. At AB the sperm meets the egg – and with pus present the cow wont get in calf. We see reduced conception rates, with cows taking 2-3 weeks longer to get in calf and a 25% lower four week pregnancy rate and higher empty rates.
To help diagnose this problem some kiwi ingenuity came into play and the Metrichecker was born.
The usual practice was to Metricheck the whole herd four weeks prior to PSM (when Tail painting premating) and treat cows with any pus with Metriclean, a non milk withholding antibiotic. This will reduce an infected cow’s time to conception by 13 days, improved six week in-calf rate by 17% and improve in-calf and empty rates.
In 2015, a 15,000 cow trial in Reporoa showed that finding and treating infected cows within 28 days after calving improved the six week in calf rate of infected cows by a further 10% compared to later treatment and improved their empty rates by 3%
The reason for this is that the longer we leave infected cows, the infection and pus becomes ‘hidden” in the uterus as the cervix closes making those cows impossible to diagnose with the metrichecker
The current focus is to metricheck all cows between 2-4 weeks calved, in batches.
Two to three times return on investment has been shown in three separate NZ studies, so it’s a good opportunity to double your money.
Vetora are currently offering a one off fee to metricheck your herd in batches (as long as it’s not during milking).
Having dirty cows in the herd is an unavoidable problem. Speak to us about identifying and treating these cows earlier to improve your herd’s reproductive performance and your bottom line.
After a relatively smooth start to my calving call outs this season I ran into a real head scratcher a few weeks ago. My patient was failing to progress with calving, with the head and front feet all present and accounted for at the vulva. The calf was deceased. Unusually, there did not appear to be any problems with the size of the calf, or with the strength of the cow’s contractions.
After administering an epidural, I gave an experimental pull to see whether we could get any movement. Despite there being plenty of room around the shoulders, the calf failed to move more than a few centimetres, even though it was certainly not far enough through the pelvis for the hips to be locked. This strange sensation of being stuck at the abdomen gave me the cause of the problem – a “water belly”!
Foetal ascites, or “water belly” calves are an uncommon foetal deformity resulting in a massive accumulation of fluid in the abdomen and intestines. It results in the unusual presentation of the head and shoulders passing easily through the pelvis, before the calf becomes stuck at the waist. The best way I have heard these calves described is “like pushing a marshmallow through a keyhole”. The calf’s distended abdomen is usually much wider than the cow’s pelvis and prevents further progression of calving.
Water belly calves usually need to have the fluid in their abdomen released before they can be calved. This can sometimes be achieved by passing a tube down into the stomach, but in already dead calves the abdomen may need to be cut. These calves can sometimes be born alive, but rarely live longer than a few minutes once calved. If you suspect you may have a waterbelly calf, the best thing to do is call your vet for assistance.
Calf disbudding can be a time consuming procedure at a very busy time of year on farm. Our Vetora technician teams offer a high quality, fast and efficient calf disbudding service. This enables farm staff to be able to get on with other important tasks elsewhere on the farm.
Dehorning is best performed when the calves are young. Ideally when they are at least two weeks old and not older than six weeks. There is also a reduced fee for disbudding calves younger than 6 weeks of age.
Our Vetora technicians will visit your farm and disbud your calves in groups. This is to ensure that the calves are not too old, meaning less burning causing less distress, and risk to the animals.
All the calves are fully sedated and then given a local anaesthetic nerve block to provide short term pain relief, during and after the procedure. The disbudding is performed with either an electric hot iron or gas dehorner. Following this antibiotic spray is applied to the area immediately afterwards.
You can also choose to give the calves an anti-inflammatory pain relief injection which provides longer lasting pain relief for 48 hours after disbudding. Calves receiving anti- inflammatory show less irritation to the wound site, less stress and will return to full feeding much faster.
Adding value to calf disbudding visit
At the same time as disbudding, our trained technicians are able to perform a number of value add procedures on the calves whilst they are sedated.
What do you need to provide for us?
Dairy NZ state on their website that “Sedation results in low stress disbudding for calves and handlers”.
When it comes to pasture bloat, bloat oils have historically been seen as the most cost-effective option available and have been added to stock water as a matter of course.
However, bloat oils are simply used to treat bloat with no added benefits. Rumenox® is now widely used in its place, not only because it effectively prevents bloat, but at the same time helps a cow’s rumen function better. Cows are more likely to stay in optimal condition which not only supports in-calf rates and milk protein production but also protects against ketosis.
Rumenox® actively manages the production of rumen gases, enabling herds to be protected for longer than short acting bloat oils, this becomes especially important on those wet days when cows aren’t drinking regularly.
Unlike bloat oils Rumenox® has a single dose rate regardless of the bloat challenge. This eliminates the need for estimating the level of bloat challenge and adjusting rates accordingly.
The good news is that the price gap between bloats oils and Rumenox® has closed considerably, making Rumenox® the most cost-effective option.
A wealth of research both internationally and in New Zealand pasture systems supports the benefits of Rumenox® and its peace of mind bloat protection.
YEARLINGS+/- AUTUMN BORN:
Lastly, it’s a busy time for everyone without getting sick, so: wash hands and change overalls to keep you & your family safe!
Claw amputations are indicated in lame cows where infection and inflammation has travelled deeper into the joint causing bone and tendon damage. In advanced cases, this damage results in the claw pointing upwards. This is often, but not always, an advanced white line disease. Once the infection gets to this point, they are often difficult to treat, have a prolonged recovery time and permanent damage resulting in ongoing lameness.
Claw amputations are often chosen after initial treatment has been unsuccessful. Early white line disease treatment includes trimming to remove underrun horn, hoof blocks to reduce the pressure on that claw, Metacam/Ketomax to reduce swelling and pain and if indicated a course of antibiotics.
Claw amputations are recommended to provide fast resolution to these lame cows as an alternative to painful, prolonged lameness events with low or no chance of resolution and therefore an alternative to euthanasia.
When selecting cows to receive a claw amputation it is important the infection is limited to the claw. It is also important to consider age, frame size and walking distances on the farms. These factors influence the success and therefore longevity within the herd. Best results are seen with young cows, smaller frame sizes and shorter walking distances.
Claw amputations are a relatively quick procedure where the affected claw is cleaned, tourniquet applied, local anaesthetic administered, and the claw is removed. A bandage is then applied to help minimise bleeding and ensure the area is kept clean. A revisit is often recommended to rebandage and check the wound. Pain relief is administered, along with antibiotics to minimise the chance of infection. No long-term treatment is required. Walking returns to normal once the wound has healed. Sometimes, in chronic cases where muscle wastage has occurred this can take up to six weeks.
Survival time in the herd varies, but on average cows are in the herd for 2 years prior to being culled for a variety of reasons. Although this is a relatively short time, amputation provides an alternative to euthanasia and a few more seasons of production.
Drench resistance in sheep worms has becoming widespread over the last 20 plus years. This has really started to ramp up in the last 5 to 10 years, and we now have multiple properties in our area when only the novel active drenches (Zolvix Plus and Startect) are effective in controlling worms.
Things have been much slower to develop in cattle for a variety of reasons, but we have recently started picking up evidence of drench resistance in cattle worms also. This mirrors results from around the country – Gribbles Veterinary Pathology is reporting a growing number of cases where drench checks have failed after cattle have been drenched.
We are planning to work with Gribbles to do some surveillance work to get a better handle on how wide spread the problem is – this will hopefully be happening over the next 6 to 12 months.
In the mean time, if you want to check how things are going with your stock, collecting 10 fresh individual faecal samples from cattle 10 days after they have been treated is a good starting point. Make sure you collect samples into plastic pottles, not plastic bags or egg cartons.
Young stock (calves/R1s) are the best group to sample, as worms usually produce more eggs when they infect young stock than in older animals.
A count of zero doesn’t necessarily mean everything is fine, but it is a great start. Counts will obviously be zero if there are no worms present, but they will also be low if worms are not laying well. Worms don’t produce any eggs until they have matured in the animals gut, and their egg laying can also be heavily suppressed as cattle get older and their immune system puts pressure on the parasites.
Any faecal egg counts that are positive at 10 days after treatment are a concern, and usually indicate we need to investigate further.
If you have any concerns with your parasite control program, please get in contact.
Is failure of passive transfer affecting your stock?
Unlike humans, the bovine placenta prevents the transfer of large antibodies essential for immunity, from crossing the placental-blood barrier and into the calf. Instead, newborn calves must ingest colostrum to absorb antibodies in their first 24 hours to obtain immunity until their own immune system becomes functional. This is referred to as ‘passive transfer’. When calves do not absorb enough antibodies they are said to have “Failure of passive transfer” or “FPT”.
In a 2015 NZ study of 4000 dairy calves from 106 seasonal pasture-based farms across nine different regions, 33% of calves had FPT, but the prevalence ranged between 5% and 80% on individual farms.. This study indicated many calves are not getting enough good quality colostrum immediately after birth to ensure passive immunity.
What are the effects of FPT?
FPT increases the risk of death, disease and ill-thrift in dairy calves, and has been associated with long-term reductions in productivity. Calves with FPT are more susceptible to diarrhoea, respiratory disease and other illnesses. FPT can also lead to reduced growth and subsequent milk production.
So what can you do to help?
STEP 1 - Test your calves for FPT
A simple test to check for FPT is by blood sampling twelve healthy calves (not scouring or dehydrated), between 24 hours and seven days of age, for laboratory analysis of total protein.
STEP 2 - Test colostrum for quality. You can use a BRIX refractometer to test your colostrum quality. BRIX readings of 22% or more indicate high quality colostrum with lots of antibodies. We have refractometers in stock in the clinic.
STEP 3 - Follow some basic quality controls for colostrum
If you would like to discuss this further, chat to your vet. We’re here to help.
For many farms, this season has been particularly difficult with regards lameness. Here are some tips to reduce pressure on cows, especially during early lactation to minimise lameness:
Focus on your heifers/young cows - being part of a milking herd is new to them
Hopefully there are still a few more lazy mornings to go before calving hits in full force in a few of weeks.
All the best.
Damaged tails – how big is the issue?
Recently, EpiVets has undertaken a study with VetNZ to figure out the prevalence of tail deviations, trauma and shortening on New Zealand dairy farms.
This study was done on 92,348 dairy cows from 200 randomly selected farms across nine regions of New Zealand. All cows present at a milking or pregnancy testing event were tail scored. Tail problems were recorded as deviated (bent), shortened (tail appearing shorter than normal) or trauma (all other problems like cuts).
The prevalence of tail deviations was 9.5% (range0.9-40.3%), for trauma it was 0.9% (range 0-10.7%) and shortening was 4.5%(range 1.3-10.8%). The prevalence of deviation and trauma varied between region; the median prevalence of deviations ranged from 6% in the West Coast, to 13% in the Waikato, and the median prevalence of all tail damage from 7% in the West Coast to 29% in Southland.
Stay tuned for the next update where we will talk about risk factors.
Is it a bird or is it a plane?
Is it a prolapsed uterus or is it a schistosome?
During calving time, it is not uncommon to get sent to a ‘prolapsed uterus’, only to find it’s not a uterus but the insides of a calf.
What is a schistosome?!
Officially called Schistosomas reflexus; this is a rare and fatal congenital abnormality of ruminants resulting in inversion of the spine and ribs (bending backwards in reverse). This often means the skin cannot close over the abdominal organs and they are left exposed. The joints are often fused and not easily manipulated, and the hind legs are often folded back towards the head. Interestingly, despite all these abnormalities, the calf often remains alive while inside the cow due to the placental connection delivering oxygen and nutrients.
Due to the spine position (the calf is essentially folded in half backwards) and fused joints, the calf cannot normally pass through the pelvic canal without assistance. Presentation of these mutants are usually one of two forms:
But fear not, we can help! Call your vet, and we can use our fetotomy skills to remove the calf in pieces. Some can be removed with as little as one or two cuts, with a great outcome for the cow. However, some of these can be extremely complicated (many of you will have some stories) and caesarean may be the best option for the cow. If you suspect a schistosome calf, please don’t assume it is not worth calling your vet, the majority of the time we get a good outcome for the cow.
To distinguish the difference between a uterine prolapse and a schistosome:
- Does it appear like one big pink/red sack? Often there are big dark red ‘buttons’ on the outside. This would be a uterine prolapse
- Are there long spaghetti loops of intestines? Possibly even a dark maroon mass (calf’s liver)? This would be a Schistosome calf.
With winter coming up, it is it is important that we provide our animals with the right amount of trace elements necessary to get them through the deficient periods. Trace elements, particularly copper and selenium, play an essential role in production and the immune system of cattle. Knowing your herds status will allow you to effectively supplement when they need it the most.
Copper has a key role in the immune system, musculoskeletal development, and in milk production. It is stored in the liver and slowly released into the bloodstream to maintain adequate levels. The best way to assess copper levels is to check how much is stored in the liver.
Deficiency commonly occurs when there are high levels of certain other elements in the grass, such as molybdenum (Mo), which significantly increases as we go from summer through to winter and can cause large reductions in the availability of copper from the diet. Copper demands are also significantly increased in late gestation. On the other hand, some feeds, especially palm kernel, are high in copper so we can run into issues with copper toxicity if supplementing and not monitoring intakes correctly.
Zinc counteracts absorption of copper so as we come out of the facial eczema season it is a good time to check your cows have sufficient levels. Some of the signs you may see with deficiency include poor production, ill thrift, pale mucus membranes, sudden death, and diarrhoea.
Selenium is required for normal growth, fertility, and aiding the body’s immune response to disease and inflammation. Maintaining adequate levels can help reduce incidence of diseases such as retained foetal membranes and mastitis. Selenium deficiency is more likely to occur in spring when pasture growth rates are rapid, and rainfall is higher. Some of the clinical signs of deficiency include ill-thrift, poor growth rates in young cattle, and infertility. The selenium concentrations in plants are often insufficient to meet the requirements of grazing ruminants so it is a good idea to keep an eye on it.
The best way to ensure your cows have adequate levels of these elements is through liver biopsies. This can be done in a live animal or through the works when you send some cows off. Culled cows from the breeding herd in late autumn or early winter can provide valuable information on your animal’s copper storage levels before the increased demands of late pregnancy and lactation. Unfortunately, blood testing cannot accurately predict the amount of copper storage in the liver but it can be used to determine selenium levels.
Autumn is a great time of the year to monitor these trace elements so contact your vet to discuss testing methods as well as appropriate supplementation if necessary.
Copper deficiency is usually seen in late winter/early spring due to the levels in the pasture being the lowest in winter. Copper is good for the animal’s development of the nervous system, bone growth, and maintains the integrity of the immune systems. It also has a role in development of the skin pigmentation which if the levels are low, this can be a main sign in cattle.
COPACAPS contain copper oxide wire particles in gelatine capsules and are the safest and most effective form of copper supplementation for cattle. After oral dosing, the capsule dissolves, and releases small wire rods of oxidised copper which lodge in the folds of the abomasum. Its weight stops it from being regurgitated, and in the acidic environment of the abomasum the rods dissolve. Copper is then released into the bloodstream and stored in the liver. They are a very safe form of supplementation and give long term protection against deficiency.
Sizes – 10g, 20g, 30g, 36g
You should wait a couple of weeks after finishing Zinc treatments before going in with any copper products. Any animals that have facial eczema should NOT be treated for copper due to the risk of heavy metal poisoning. Speak to your vet today if you have any questions or concerns around supplementing with copper.
I haven’t documented any dairy cow cases I’ve seen on farm so thought I’d write about something else I see on farms.
The valuable, hard working farm dogs and a common health issue they face, arthritis. Osteoarthritis is inflammation of the joints and is very common in older dogs; more so in working dogs due to their high level of activity and increased risks/history of injuries. Arthritis is a progressive disease i.e. it gets worse over time. The cold weather can make this condition worse. Arthritis unfortunately cannot be cured but can it be managed. Signs to watch out for include reluctance to jump on and off the bike, shorter gait, appearing stiffer and slowing down/falling behind while working and/or excessively licking the joints. Working dogs generally don’t show pain and continue to work even when they experience significant discomfort. Hence, any signs of pain should be addressed promptly. Treatment to manage arthritis can involve anti-inflammatories, pentosan injections, joint supplements, or special joint diets. Some older dogs may benefit from wearing a jacket/coat during winter to keep them warm.
So, if your dog is showing any signs or osteoarthritis/pain, please have a chat with one of the vets.
Priyanka Kulkarni BVSc, MVS
By now a lot of you will have dried off or have dried off some of the herd. With most of the cows treated with dry cow therapy and/or teat sealant, dry cow mastitis should be minimal but it is important to detect early.
Udder infections of dry cows are most likely to occur immediately following dry off and around calving, cows are susceptible to new infections especially in the first week of the dry period before the teat plugs have formed.
In the first few days after dry off cows should be checked carefully in the paddock for signs of sickness ie swollen udder, difficulty walking or off their feed. Pay particular attention to cows that received teat seal only as they can develop a very acute mastitis very quickly!
Affected cows should be brought to the shed and the affected quarter fully stripped out. It takes time to do this well, but the less pus and rubbish left in the udder, the better the antibiotics will work and the greater chance you have of saving the quarter(s). Stripping out should continue at least daily for the duration of the treatment.
Most dry cow mastitis is caused by an environmental bacteria, predominantly Strep. Uberis. Occasionally, cows can get sick as a result of mastitis and this can be the result of Coliforms, Staph. aureus or Clostridial bacteria infecting the udder. If the cow is sick, it is recommended that you call the vet ASAP, as these cows often go downhill rapidly from the toxin build-up and can be dead within 24hours if left untreated. Fluid supplementation and anti inflammatory medication is often the most important aspect of treatment in these cases.
Treatments should be discussed with your vet, but in general selecting an injectable mastitis treatment will be better than simply using an intramammary. This is because when cows are dry, there is no milk for the intramammary treatment to diffuse through and get dispersed up into the udder.
Dry cow mastitis, as with any other mastitis, is a painful condition, and therefore adding in a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (e.g. Metacam) is strongly recommended. This is especially important if the cow appears sick.
When you have finished the treatment don’t be tempted to insert a tube of Dry Cow antibiotic up the affected quarter, these cows are dried-off and don’t have the milk present for dispersal of the drug through the quarter and have a high risk of giving an antibiotic grade at the start of next season.
Run all cows through the shed for a manual check of the udder after 14 days, this should be done for the first 4-6 weeks of the dry period , new clinical cases are most likely to be found within the first 28 days of dry off.
Johnes disease is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis. It is a disease which causes a cow to rapidly lose condition while still eating normally. She will have watery bubbling diarrhoea.
While cows can catch Johnes at any age, they are much more susceptible and will usually catch it as calves when they are under 6 months of age. However, we don’t see the wasting (clinical) side of the disease until they are 5-7 years old after a period of stress. If the wasting form of the disease has been diagnosed in a heifer, then this can mean there is a high burden of Johnes on your farm.
Herd testing in the milk is a useful way to go about testing your whole herd to see which cows are currently shedding Johnes. Timing of milk testing should be considered. February is the most popular time, so it does book up quickly. The benefits of doing it in February are due to a high milk production which makes the results more accurate, and it is before the cull cows are sent. If you have a herd test coming up it can still be done at this time of year. The downside of doing it too close to dry off is that it will miss any cows that are dried off early and when there is low milk production or high SCC (>1million) there is a risk of false positives. Any positive cow on milk test can be confirmed with a blood test. Getting this information before the cows calve down next season is very important for the management of this disease.
No Johnes test is going to find all the infected cows so there will be false negatives but testing does give us a useful management tool. This is because cows do not usually shed or shed intermittently
unless they are near the clinical stage. Testing clinical cows (wasting disease) for Johnes is very accurate. If that test comes back negative the wasting is unlikely due to Johnes.
The results from the herd test will come back as:
It is best to discuss with your vet a management plan for each category for what will fit with your farm.
Reducing Risk in Calves
Because the risk of catching Johnes is higher in calves, management around the disease involves ways to protect these calves from exposure. The calves of the infected cows should not be kept as replacements. There is a high risk that they are already infected with Johnes. Effluent should not be used on any paddock the calves graze on or anywhere near the calf pens.
Yearly testing will help identify the cows that are shedding before calving. But there will always be some that are missed. Therefore, these cows will still be contaminating the environment and the pooled colostrum/ milk. Keeping the calves in a clean environment and keeping them off effluent paddocks will help reduce the risk and each year should reduce the number of cows shedding Johnes.
With the arrival of summer, staff and farmers returning from holiday or about to take a well-earned break, it can be easy to overlook your growing heifers, especially if they are at grazing, or ‘out of sight; out of mind.’
Many heifers graze off-farm, for a weekly ‘per head’ fee. Others are grazed with weight-gain contracts that stipulate target weights out to 22 months.
Some graziers will routinely weigh their heifers, others have animal health plans detailing vaccinations, drenching, trace mineral supplements, eczema control, mating management etc.
All too often, however, all the best intentions can still be thwarted by unexpected events resulting in replacement heifers falling behind in their growth and their health and wellbeing becoming compromised (Figure 1).
There is a risk that assumptions are made that stock grazing the back country are doing fine now just because they were last month, or at last yarding. In other cases, complacency can set in. Either way, heifers falling behind their breed growth target need to somehow make that weight up before they reach mating, or calving. Well-grown heifers will produce more milk, compete better in the MA herd, get back in calf, are less prone to parasitism and disease, and survive much longer in the herd.
Although heifer growth rates from birth to 22 months are curvilinear (see graph in Figure 2 – Target weights by breed & age), it is helpful to remember that heifers need to average 650–700grams liveweight gain every day to achieve their optimal breed weight by mating and calving.
To safeguard your stock performance:
There are few substitutes for seeing your replacement heifers at grazing for yourself. Book-in a visit for next month if you haven’t already seen them. It will be an excellent way of avoiding unexpected results. If your heifers are thriving, this will brighten your day, and you can commend your grazier – they will appreciate the acknowledgement of their hard work (Figure 3).
Our region has been luckier than many in the wake of cyclone Gabrielle. Even so with the likelihood of more weather events in the future this has provided a sobering opportunity for us to plan and prepare for future disasters.
DairyNZ research has shown that mid-lactation herds can tolerate delays of up to a week and, with careful handling, they can return to full or near-full milk production. If milkings are missed for up to a week, then cows should recover with the exception of very low producing cows.
To help manage cows that can’t be milked, we recommend
And of course let us know, we are here to support you.
As a club we partner and invest in the future of farming and animal health research. This includes a strategic partnership with EpiVets, a world-class veterinary epidemiological team based from our Vetora Te Awamutu clinic. Epivets works with our farmers to conduct research and with our team to ensure we stay up to date with the latest knowledge and technology.
Like it or not, our agricultural animals produce a fair bit of methane. Maybe you just want to keep up with the ongoing wall of future compliance (what is next ?!...), or maybe you want to keep NZ at the front of low emission agriculture. Either way, managing methane outputs is probably going to be something that we will need to think about more in the near future.
There is a lot of work going on around the world and in NZ aroundreducing greenhouse gas outputs whilemaintaining milk and redmeat production.
Genetics willoffer some interesting opportunities, but in the veterinary space there are also some upcoming solutionsusing methane inhibitors and methane vaccines. Both of these target methanogenorganisms. These methane producing bugs are a normal part of the rumen microbialcommunity, but unlike many of the plant digestingmicrobes, they are not essentialfor the host animal.
Methane inhibitors are substances that need to be fed regularly to animals, that stop the activity of the methanogen organisms. Researchhas been lookingat options to deliver the inhibitors either via daily feed rations or a controlled release capsule. A study from dairy cows inthe US showed that emissions were reduced by 30%, without affecting milk production. A French study showed a24% reduction in methane emissions, also with no effect on milk production.
Methane vaccines are given to the cow like other vaccines, and the cow produces antibodies in her saliva.The antibodies bind to the methanogens, reducing their activity.
There will obviously need to be a financial incentive to introduce this new science, and there is still have a lot of field research to be done before they are commercially available, but it is good to be aware of near future developments.
Facial eczema (FE) is a disease of the liver not the skin. It causes incredible milk production loss and welfare challenges, most of the time without farmers even realising. It's time to break the cycle and do it better.
FE is a disease caused by a fungus that produces toxic spores depending on the weather conditions. Gone are the days of thinking this disease starts in February and is finished in April. We need to start thinking that animals may be eating these toxic spores as early as November to as late as June! Fully preventing this disease is achievable but unfortunately, even in an average year, about one- third of farms have cattle suffering liver damage. In a high challenge year, this will be closer to 80%.
So how can we better manage this disease?
In a nutshell, you need to base your decisions on information from your farm. Not your neighbours’, brother’s, friends’, family’s farm. YOUR FARM!
1. Starting and stopping your management
Regardless of what management you do to prevent FE, you should base the decision to start or stop on spore counts from your farm. Spore counts from anywhere but your own farm are too variable to make decisions from. Therefore, this season Vetora will be stopping communication of where the monitor farms are located.
To gather spore information for your farm; choose 4 representative paddocks and spore count them weekly until you start your management. You can stop spore counting once your management is in place. When you want to stop you FE management make sure your counts are at 0 spores/g pasture for three consecutive weeks on your farm.
2. Monitoring your management
Regardless of which management you choose for preventing FE, you need to monitor it to see if it is working. More than 60% of farms don’t provide enough zinc to protect against the toxin in the spores and many farmers will spray with a fungicide without spore counting first, so it is not working. What a waste of time and money!
Once you are providing full dose rates of zinc (which you should be doing no matter what the spore count), for a week then you can either:
a. Get your bulk milk zinc tested for free (if you are a Fonterra client)
b. Get 15 cattle blood tested for zinc concentration
This will give you the information you need to determine if what you are doing is going to work.
Before you fungicide spray, do spore counts. After you have sprayed, keep spore counting a selection of paddocks to collect information on whether the spray has worked as you anticipated.
If the results are not what you thought then it is time to involve your vet. This is what they are here for. Don’t feel alone, this is the case for the majority of farmers. But you can fix it!
I have been involved with countless investigations and trials into facial eczema and spoken to thousands of farmers all over the country over my career and the constant reason for all FE breakdowns (known or unknown) is that farmers are guessing. Guessing when to start their zinc program, guessing when to bolus their heifers, guessing when to stop, guessing that their management is working. Break the cycle. This year is the year to base your decisions on information!
Are your calves going on a grazing holiday? Have you filled out their arrival card yet? Effective communication with your grazier about what your calves have received already, and what you expect them to receive over the next 18 months sets up clear expectations for the care of your valuable young stock. Vetora has created a comprehensive arrival card that summarises all the essentials.
Weights – ideally an individual weight for each calf before going to grazing allows you to closely monitor their weight gains over the coming months, and identify individuals that may not be doing as well. If individual weights are not possible, a mob average using digital scales would be recommended.
Vaccines – both clostridial (5-in-one or 10-in-one) and Lepto-3-way vaccination boosters should be completed before calves go to grazing.
Lepto-3-way especially should be completed as early as possible. Did you know, if an animal gets infected with leptospirosis before vaccination, the bacteria can set up home in the kidneys and the animal will continue to shed bacteria for up to 2 years; vaccination does not cure it! The first Lepto-3 way injection can be give as early as 4 weeks, so don’t wait until they are at grazing to complete their vaccination course.
It is also worth keeping in mind they will need an aligning lepto-3-way booster while at grazing! Talk to your vet if you’re unsure about the timing of when this should occur.
Have you considered BVD vaccination of your 3 month old calves? BVD virus circulating your young stock mob has the potential to reduce growth rates, suppress the immune system and cause them to be more susceptible to other diseases. This effect is often more pronounced if the mob is also running with a persistently infected animal (it does not have to be your animal). Make sure they are protected with two shots starting from 3 months old.
Do you often see pink eye spread through your calves through the summer and do you know how much weight gain that is costing you? An Australian article quoted up to 10% weight loss in affected weaner calves. Have you considered Piliguard Pink eye vaccination?
The second page of the arrival card covers your basic mating plan, plus the routine treatments that you want your calves to receive while at grazing. It’s a good page that lays out whether the owner or the grazier is responsible for a specific treatment.
If you would like a copy of an arrival card for your calves, speak to your vet and we can sort you out.
As usual, I left it to the last minute to write an article for this newsletter, and then realised I had nothing new to add from a veterinary perspective.
So, I thought I’d pass on some things I’ve learnt in the last few months. (This is what we used to say before ‘taking some learnings’!!). Please note, I’ve just come back from a short trip to Zambia, so there will be some African references...
Elephants are very sensitive to shocks from electric fences. This is a proven way to keep them off your crops. Otherwise, mixing chilli powder and vegetable oil in a ping-pong ball and firing them at the flank of the matriarch is another humane deterrent. This causes enough skin irritation to convince her to take the herd somewhere else to graze!
The uptake of Cow wearables (collars and ear sensors) seems to be on the move. For those that have taken the plunge the benefits to both cow and farmer wellbeing are noticeable, especially around mating time. It’s exciting times alright, but remember the technology is new to us too, so be patient (especially with some of us older vets!) if we look at you blankly when shown new data.
‘Gravitational Hunting’ is a clever technique used by leopards, whereby they climb the Kigelia (Sausage) Tree and shake the branches so the fruit drops on the ground. They then hide amongst the branches and wait for impala and other antelope to be tempted under the tree, then pounce from above.
Our weather patterns are becoming more and more unpredictable, and we must be prepared for that. Herd homes and in-shed feeding will be as common as collars in the not-too-distant future.
Spotted hyena mothers usually give birth to twins. In areas where the food source is scarce, the twins will often try and take out the other sibling to improve their chances of survival. This killing of a sibling, or ‘siblicide’, will often occur in the first few weeks after birth either by direct fighting (active siblicide) or reducing the other sibling’s access to the mother’s milk (passive siblicide).
Baboons and antelope (Impala, Puku) form an unusual symbiotic relationship that turns a bit sour. During the dry months they will graze on the open plains together and help warn each other about predators. The baboons have fantastic eyesight, and the antelope have excellent sense of smell and sound. However, this relationship changes when the antelope give birth to their young. The baboon can’t resist this easy prey and start targeting the calves themselves!
We meet a 15 yearold girl who had her lower leg bitten off by a crocodile whilst cleaning her clothes in the reptile-infested river. She was forced to do that because her family doesn’t have access to a decent amount of water to do their washing in. The inspiring thing was she was just so happy to be alive. She was so grateful for everything we gave her, and I think we can all learn from that.
Yes, it’s been an extremely testing few years for us here in NZ, but we are so fortunate to live in this amazing country and we shouldn’t lose sight of that.
Avoiding anthelminthic (worm drench) resistance is balancing optimal stock performance and reducing exposure of parasites to anthelmintic products.
The brief recommendations below are aimed for optimal/near optimal young stock performance while avoiding unnecessary/ reduced exposure of parasites to anthelmintic products. Discuss on farm implementation with your vet.
General notes on worm drenching;
We strongly recommend doing a Faecal Egg Count (FEC). This is to determine worm challenge and allows to choose timing for an anthelminthic treatment.
Calves on pasture (targets Cooperia)
From 6 months to 18 months (targets Ostertagia)
Over 18 months – when indicated
The objective of refugia is to leave some parasites unexposed to drench product so they can breed with parasites exposed to drench. Parasites still alive after anthelmintic exposure will have resistance to that anthelmintic and we don’t want to populate the grass with just resistant worm larvae.
There are a few methods of achieving refugia on your property/with your animals.
Pasture length – Shorter pasture length means more worm larvae are eaten because they are in the bottom 2 cm of pasture. Fully fed animals are more resistant to fighting off a parasitic burden.
Quarantine drench – Pick a product that has more active ingredients compared with your usual product of choice. For example, if you normally use a dual active then use a triple active for the quarantine. Apply the anthelmintic on arrival and hold on a designated quarantine area for 24+ hours.
Pasture management to reduce overall challenge – cross grazing with cows or other stock, 3+month spelling, cropping, pasture renewal.
Note: a FEC estimates the burden of adult worms in the animal (not immature worms).
Check your anthelmintic is effective by taking ten to 15 faecal samples seven to 12 days after oral drench (12-14 days after if using pour-on).
Use the same method if sampling ahead of drenching to determine timing of treatment.
Recently, I had a call out to see a 3.5 week old beef calf with recurrent bloat. She had recently been treated for cryptosporidiosis and despite still having some diarrhoea, was her normal, gusty self when she was fed 3 L of milk replacer at 7 am but by noon had become bloated and had been kicking at her gut.
She made no attempt to move when I entered the pen and had an abnormal stance and bloated left abdomen. She had been seen by a vet the week prior for similar episode. For both vet visits, treatment involved releasing the gas from the rumen via a needle and giving pain relief in the form of an anti-inflammatory and an antispasmodic agent.
Whilst the gas was being drained, a small amount of milk was seen in the needle, confirming milk to be in the rumen – not where we want it!
The calf did not drink that night but was bright and readily drank electrolytes the next morning. Milk was re-introduced in an evening feed, and within a few hours she had started to bloat up again. She was not showing signs of colic but was pre-emptively given another dose of an anti-inflammatory and an anti- spasmodic. By the next morning she had ‘deflated’ and was again bright and hungry.
There are several causes for bloat. As milk was found in the rumen, one potential cause could be a fault in the oesophageal groove reflex which is where normally, in response to suckling, a muscular channel forms to direct milk to the portion of the gut that can digest it (the abomasum) bypassing the rumen. When milk enters the rumen it can’t undergo normal digestion and instead ferments which can cause acidosis, gut microflora disruption and bloating. This phenomenon is also known as ruminal drinking.
Risk factors for ruminal drinking:
Currently the calf is being managed by alternating between milk and electrolytes on a twice daily feeding regime and has ad lib hay, grass and meal with added optiguard. She is being fed on a feeder with an adjustable flow speed and the height of the feeder has been brought down to nose level in a bid to better control the flow of milk. In addition to this, eating of meal and roughage is being encouraged and the calf is allowed to suckle the rearer’s fingers prior to feeding to help stimulate the oesophgeal groove reflex. Due to the recurrent nature of these episodes, the prognosis is guarded with condition and progress being evaluated on a daily basis.
From schools to the farm gate, we are all trying to do our bit towards sustainability - You’ll be pleased to hear that the veterinary pharmaceutical companies are also getting involved, reducing the amount of landfill produced from drug packaging.
Zoetis, Elanco and MSD now have recycling programmes for some of their packaging. We still have a way to go though, as recycling containers containing residual antibiotics is problematic.
In a new initiative, containers listed can be taken to one of our vet clinics or handed to our vets, techs or sales team when they visit your farm.
We also have a Royal Canin recycling box for their dog and cat bags in the retail area, anyone can drop them including non-clients.
We also have an AgRecovery depot at our Otorohanga clinic. Containers up to 20L with the AgRecovery logo and triple rinsed with lid off can be left at the clinic.
Participation in a product stewardship scheme for on-farm plastics and agrichemicals also helps Fonterra suppliers meet environmental achievement criteria for the co-operative difference programme.
What can be recycled?
I recently saw this “while you are here can you check this abscess” cow. Unfortunately, this case was more severe than an abscess and was in fact a vulval mass extending into the vaginal and rectal wall.
In all aspects it resembles a type of tumour called a squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). This is a malignant tumour of skin cells which can rapidly spread to nearby organs. Secondary bacterial infections often develop which can complicate things even further. This girl was in calf but had to be euthanised due to the extent of growth and blockage of the vaginal and rectal canal.
Interestingly this type of tumour presents more commonly around the eye which many of you might recognise as a “cancer eye”. The peak age of onset for these is 8 years old and most commonly develop on white faced animals with sunlight being one of the main driving forces around the development of these tumours. They have a special affection for developing on the 3rd eyelid and can occasionally grow from the eyeball itself leading to blindness.
Cancer often doesn’t need a reason to develop but these tumours more commonly grow due to a few causes:
They typically start as benign white plaques but can progress to ulceration or a malignant stage in which it can spread to the entire orbit of the eye, large portions of the face and distant organs at which point it is untreatable.
Cows cannot be transported with a cancer eye tumour that fits any of these criteria:
Treatment requires removing the tumour entirely if it is possible to get good margins – it is often a quick fix and depending on the location of the tumour usually involves removing the 3rd eyelid or in some cases the whole eye. Surgical treatment doesn’t always result in a cure, there is a chance of recurrence but the sooner we can get to them the less likely this will happen. We have the potential to remove these tumours before they spread so it is vital to routinely check eyes. Give us a call early so we can help you preserve your animals value and well-being.
Once a case of mastitis has been found, what to treat with becomes the next decision. The age of the animal and time of year will year will often help with the treatment decision plan.
In the spring, most cases of mastitis in a heifer, will be Strep uberis. The most appropriate treatment will then be a penicillin based product. Ideally you want to take a sample from the mastitis case before any treatment is given.
Take the sample in a sterile manner so that it doesn’t become cross contaminated with a bug from the environment. Clean the end of the teat with either meths and cotton wool or a teat cleaning swab from a sterile pack.
Hold the sample container slightly away from the udder of the cow so that dirt cannot drop into the container from the udder. Don’t try to overfill the mastitis sample container. 1 cm depth in bottom of container is sufficient. More squeezes from the teat into the container, increases the risk of contaminating the sample.
Identify the sample with a permanent marker pen, including the cow ID and which quarter. If not going to be sent away for culture straight away, it can be stored in the freezer until required. If treatment is initially unsuccessful, the pre-treatment sample can be cultured to identify the organism accurately.
Some farmers are now using an electronic device on their farms to identify mastitis organisms and receive advice on best treatment plan to use. These Mastatest machines take 24 hours from the sample being put into the machine to the result being given. The vet clinic also receives a copy of the test result via email once the test is completed.
If the mastitis case is only mild, in some cases no antibiotic treatment is given until the result received. Farmers are however giving a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug to help reduce inflammation. If the machine identifies a gram- negative organism, they may decide to not use any antibiotic , but to just continue with the anti-inflammatory. This leads to an overall reduction in antibiotic use, which leads to responsible use of antibiotics.
Within the last 12 months we have had some outbreaks of mastitis on a large scale, not caused by the commonly encountered mastitis organisms.
One herd has had a large number of cases of Serratia mastitis. This organism causes an increase in Bulk SCC, but not a large number of clinical cases. This organism is basically untreatable with antibiotics, so leads to large numbers of cows having to be culled. The problem on the farm becomes managing Bulk SCC to prevent grading.
Another herd has recently had a large number of cases of Prototheca mastitis. This is caused by an algae, so again cannot be treated with antibiotics. Culling of identified cases unfortunately becomes the treatment plan.
Lambs’ tails are docked to reduce their risk of flystrike. A long tail allows for dags which attract the flies increasing the risk and severity of flystrike in the summer.
Lambs’ tails can be docked up to 6 months of age and must be done with a rubber ring or hot iron. After 6 months it must be done surgically by a veterinarian.
The tail must be long enough to cover the vulva (and similar length in males). This protects the vulva from sun damage. While we want the tails shorter to prevent flystrike, tails too short can also increase risk of flystrike and can also cause uterine prolapses after lambing.
Lambs should get their clostridial vaccinations before tail docking to ensure they are protected from tetanus.
The animal welfare regulations allow rubber ring castration in sheep, goats, and cattle until 6 months of age. After this time, it is required to be surgically done by a veterinarian.
Often the testes will be too big to be rubber ringed successfully before they reach 6 month of age and should instead be done surgically by a veterinarian. It is a lot easier for us to surgically castrate than to fix a rubber ring job that has gone wrong. When using a rubber ring you
need to ensure both testes are below the ring and make sure none of the teats are included (yes, like humans the males have nipples too).
Horses and pigs must be castrated by a veterinarian with the necessary pain relief given.
If you are unsure about any castrations or tail docking we can do this from any age. These are painful procedures, and it is better to be done right.
Disbudding and dehorning is a painful procedure; it is not like cutting the fingernails. There is a good nerve supply to the horn. The Animal Welfare Regulation now states that disbudding and dehorning must be done “under the influence of pain relief that is authorised by a veterinarian for the purpose of the procedure”.
For calves we recommend disbudding from 2 weeks of age. For goat kids they need to be under 10 days to be disbudded.
Many commonly grown plants around lifestyle blocks can pose a risk to stock with potentially fatal outcomes. Even as little as two leaves from some of these plants can be fatal to livestock. Although often unpalatable, animals that are very hungry, bored, or even slightly curious may decide to try them – it is in these circumstances we need to be extra vigilant in keeping the animals away from these plants.
Animals may show one or many of these signs.
Sufficient feed – avoid animals having the urge to gorge on the plant material
Adequate fencing around plants ensuring there is enough room between the plants and the fence so the animals cannot stick their heads through to get it
Clippings of the plants are disposed of correctly and not fed to your animals
Check your paddocks after a storm – branches may end up in the paddock with the animals
If you are worried your animal has ingested a toxic plant, make sure you remove them from it immediately. Give them access to fresh clean water and call your vet as soon as you can.
Worms that cause disease in lambs and calves can be controlled by drenches. A lamb should ideally get its first drench at weaning time, approximately 3–4 months of age. Calves should be drenched 3–4 weeks after they are weaned off milk or milk replacer. After the first drench, youngstock should be drenched according to faecal egg counts, or every 4 weeks until the following April/May. After that, lambs and calves develop immunity and have a reduced requirement for drenching.
Drench for lambs and calves is usually given orally. Once calves are over 100kg however, there are also a pour on or injectable drench options. Because the amount of drench needed is based on weight, it’s important to have a rough idea about how much the animal weighs. Drench actives can be toxic to other species so care should be taken that it is only given to the animals it is intended for.
Other animal species, including pigs, chickens and goats will also need to be drenched routinely throughout the year. Pop into your local clinic to get advice on which products to use and when to apply the drench.
Whether you are rearing 1-2 calves for Ag day at school, or you are rearing 50+ to sell there are a few aspects that are key to calf rearing success.
Note: In this article we cover a few of these topics in general, but if you’d like to know more pop into your local Vetora branch to chat to one of our staff. They will be able to help you with specific questions or get you sorted with the right products.
The facilities where calves are kept are important for preventing disease and promoting calf health and development.
Key elements for calf housing:
Good ventilation and sunlight: ventilation prevents the build up of ammonia and smell. Sunlight is really important for keeping the pens dry and the UV light helps to kill some bacteria.
Dry: can you kneel on the bedding without getting wet?
If not, the bedding needs to be thicker, or you might need better drainage or ventilation.
Bedding: woodchips or sawdust work well. The bedding should be thick enough that you can kneel on it without getting sore knees.
Clean: between seasons the sheds should be cleaned out, bedding replaced and pen sanitised. Throughout the season, bedding should be topped up or replaced as it gets dirty and damp. Calf pens should be sanitised daily to weekly with disinfectant, depending on the number of calves in the shed. Milk feeders should also be cleaned daily as milk is an excellent food source for bacteria.
If calves are outside, they need to have access to shelter. Bad weather is often unavoidable in spring, have a plan in place for how to deal with it, this could be as simple as a shed, or moving calves to paddock with a good hedge or tree line in it.
Calves get their immunity to disease from the colostrum they drink in the first 24 hrs of their life. This first feed then is critical to give the calves their best start in life. If this first drink needs to be bottle fed or tube fed to a calf, ensure it is good quality colostrum or colostrum replacer.
After the first 24 hrs, calves need good quality colostrum, milk or milk replacer. As a guide, calves need to drink 10% of their bodyweight in milk. The milk they are drinking should be fed consistently in similar volumes, concentration and at the same temperature every day. Changes in the milk they are drinking or feeding routine can cause diarrhoea in calves.
Fresh, clean water should be available to calves at all times.
Providing meal and some sort of hay or silage is also important to develop their rumen. Giving the calves access to roughage early encourages a smooth transition over weaning.
Despite our best efforts, occasionally calves get diarrhoea/scour. Early identification and treatment of sick calves is critical to success of the treatment. Severe dehydration as a result from the scour can be fatal, so keeping calves hydrated is the best way to start treatment.
Recommended method of treatment:
Feed 2 litres of electrolyte per feed and repeat day 3 of the program if the calves are still scouring. Separate the milk and electrolyte feeds by 2-3 hrs in order for the milk to be digested.
Poo samples can be tested for various common bacteria and virus that cause calves to scour. This can be useful to tailor the treatment course. Poo samples should be taken directly from the calf (not the ground) and should be collected into sterile pottles (available at your local clinic).
Calves should be vaccinated against clostridial diseases (tetanus, black leg etc.). There is a range of vaccines available, each covering different strains of clostridial bacteria. Calves will need 2 shots of this vaccine, 4–6 weeks apart. The first vaccination can be administered at disbudding, or around 3 weeks of age. This vaccine can be boosted at 1 year or age if necessary.
The other important vaccination is against leptospiral bacteria. Lepto is found in the environment and is found all over New Zealand. While animals are often infected with no clinical signs, the real risk is to human health. Humans can become infected with lepto by contact with infected urine, aborted material, water or feed contaminated by urine. Symptoms in humans can range from flu-like symptoms to more severe disease such as kidney failure. For this reason, we usually recommend that all livestock are vaccinated against Lepto. This vaccination is again 2 shots, 4–6 weeks apart with an annual booster.
The growth of on farm cow monitoring technology allows us to pick up cow health conditions earlier allowing us to make management and treatment decisions quicker and thus increasing the likelihood of a positive outcome for our cows.
There is another part too, once we have embarked on a treatment decision or management decision, we can monitor how effective or ineffective they have been by monitoring their return to ‘normal’ function – ruminating, eating, temperature and activity. Lame cows, Mastitis cows, Sick cow, Surgery cows; all of these can be watched physically and digitally on their recovery journey.
The availability of this level of digital monitoring, combined with the farmers observations enables us to support the recovery with a greater degree of accuracy as well as use it as a tool to determine if intervention or re-examination is required to make sure we achieve the best outcome for the animal.
Cow 10 and her C-Section
At 5am on the 7th of November (the red arrow on the graph opposite), Cow 10 a wee Dexter flagged up a distress signal, this is when the Allflex collar noted she began to calve.
A calf’s head was presented at 10:00am on the 7th of November and monitored by the owner. When no progress was made by mid afternoon a vet was called and a caesarean section was begun (demarcated by the black arrow). From this point rumination and activity declined sharply (not surprising as we opened her abdomen to get the calf out), at 5am on the 8th of November, at which point it began to track upwards. By 6am on the 9th of November rumination and activity had returned to close to normal (blue arrow). Then by 9pm on the 10th of November her eating had returned to normal (orange arrow).
She was watched closely after surgery for complications and her return to ‘normal’ behavior. What was great about having this extra information was that it allowed us to monitor her recovery and make sure it was going as expected without complications (metritis, subclinical calcium and magnesium issues, peritonitis, surgical site infections, retained membranes).
With the dry period not too far away, it is time to think about body condition scoring.
Those of you who are enrolled in Fonterra’s animal wellbeing plan will know there is a section for body condition score, but it is an essential tool for any farm.
The four recommended times to body condition score are:
An important time of year, for body condition scoring, is now before dry off. The late lactation condition score should be done at least 100 days before planned start of calving (longer if you think you have skinny cows). This allows enough time to make changes to get to target for calving.
There are two forms of scoring:
Herd scoring which involves walking in the paddock with the herd and scoring about 70 cows to get a herd average score. This gives data for herd level decisions.
Individual scoring involves scoring every cow. To do this both the back and the right side of each cows needs to be visible to the scorer. Individual scoring is usually done in the cow shed either through the rotary bales or can be done by slowly running cows past the scorer one at a time. Individual scoring has the advantage for individual cow decisions such as an early dry off or preferential feeding for any cows that have a low BCS.
The target score at calving is 5 for cows and 5.5 for R3 heifers. The length of the dry period can be used to get cows to the correct condition by calving. The first 10 days after dry off cows are unlikely to put on condition and the last 30 days before calving they will not put on condition. Cows can put on 0.5 of a condition score per 30 days (if just on pasture) or per 20 days if high quality supplement is added. For example, a cow that is condition score 4.0 will need a 100 day dry period if on pasture and an 80 day dry period if added supplement to get to 5.0 for calving. It is a rough but useful guide that is based on cows getting a minimum of 9-11kgDM/day (depending on breed).
Using an accredited scorer will allow for accurate unbiased scoring. However, if you choose to do it yourself, please visit www.dairynz.co.nz/animal/body-condition-scoring/ which has some great resources to get it more accurate.
By now AB should be well underway and all going well, cows are cycling vigorously. Your bull team has hopefully arrived on farm at this start of AB – at least six weeks prior to use.
Use the 3% +1 rule to decide on the number of bulls you require (for example, if you have 100 cows to get in calf, you want 3 + 1 = 4 bulls). Bulls should be a similar size to the cows (less then 100kg average difference) to prevent injury to both the cows and bulls. Select bulls that are easy calving and exclude any bulls with horns, or feet deformities.
Prior to arriving on farm, the bulls should have been:
At arrival, bulls should be:
When in use:
Taking time to keep an eye on what’s happening out in the paddock can make a huge difference in the long run.
Spring eczema is a catch all term for photosensitisation signs between August and December. Most likely candidates are plants and fungi. Culprit plants contain photodynamic agents that react with sunlight and damage skin cells (primary photosensitisation)
Fungi in feed tend to cause liver damage which reduces the liver’s ability to remove the agents which then reach the skin and again react with sunlight (secondary photosensitisation). In young calves with immature livers, added challenges are early weaning and consuming high levels of grass, parasites, bacteria, and ironically worm treatments.
Whilst the exact offender may not always be determined, note that Facial eczema and sporidesmin are not included as these typically occur in mid-summer to autumn.
Signs are redness and swelling in light coloured skin and hairless areas, usually with irritation and pain. Udders, heads, and white areas of the body are frequently affected. Animals generally seek shade, and/or mud and water to cool the inflamed skin. Then may follow reduced production and growth, and weight loss. Severe cases may develop jaundice and bottle jaw. In cows blood sampling for liver function will help determine if full recovery is likely. Damaged skin may be prone to flystrike, dermatophilosis and infection. Recovered skin may develop chronic thickening and scarring.
The case pictured here is a yearling heifer grazing in a mob of 80, and on new grass for the previous two weeks. No other cases were detected by the owners, and this animal was noticed the day before the vet visit. Initially from paddock observation, they assumed it was woody tongue. Upon drafting her, they noted she was drinking a lot, and grazing a little and the skin around the head looking red and sore.
Clinical examination revealed a raised temperature (39.4’C), moderate bottle jaw, mild weight loss, normal faeces and urine. Photosensitisation was worse around the head, including swollen muzzle and nostrils, and all eyelids. These areas were weeping and crusting. The vulva and perineum were inflamed but not cracking or weeping. Inside the mouth all membranes and tongue were normal. A presumed diagnosis of Spring Eczema was confirmed by liver enzyme analysis in the laboratory.
Treatment is supportive – removing the offending plants and liver toxins if identified; minimising direct sunlight (daytime housing in darkened sheds, grazing at night, sunblock cream, cover); pain relief, access to supplements in the daytime such as silage and hay.
In this case, the heifer has access to a large hay shed which she voluntarily uses during the day, and grazes mature pasture at night. She received antihistamine and anti-inflammatory injections for initial relief. The skin is steadily improving. The liver has good capacity for healing and enzyme levels generally return to normal over several weeks.