By the time you are reading this we hope the weather will have improved and the first signs of spring will be here—livestock, and sheep in particular, are in desperate need of some grass after a hard winter following a bad summer last year. Losses of sheep in some areas of the practice have been extensive, and not many of those that have been found alive in the snow have survived at this late stage of pregnancy owing to the demands of the developing lambs.
As I am sure you are all aware, ewes in late pregnancy and early lactation are working hardest and it is vital they receive sufficient supplementary food until the grass starts to grow. At least these conditions will reduce the risk of further infection with fluke.
The cold weather in March will also lead to delayed hatching of Nematodirus eggs, so when it does finally warm up then the forecast is for high levels of infection in your lambs. The best control method is to avoid grazing lambs on pasture used for young lambs the previous year, or ideally the previous 2 years!!
As this is not very practical then worm drenches may be needed, with white drenches still being the best option. This is about the only time we advise treating without using faecal egg counting first. The disease is caused by massive numbers of young worms in the gut and significant damage, including death, can happen before eggs are found in the faeces.
Schmallenberg virus continues to cause problems in the practice. We have delivered 3 affected calves during the last week, 2 by Caesarean. Cows need to be infected between 40 and 120 days of pregnancy to cause problems in the developing foetus, so these animals would have been bitten by affected midges between August and October last year.
This is the same time of year as the sheep which gave birth to affected lambs in January would have been exposed. If a calf is not presented properly and you are having problems straightening it up then it may be deformed and so will not be born naturally. The sooner we see the cow and the less time you have spent trying to calve her then the better chance there is for her should she require a Caesearean.
Getting cows back in calf can be problematic at times, with condition of the womb as well as nutrition being important. Maintaining body condition in the first 3 months of lactation is vital to try and improve the chances of the cow conceiving again. We also need to make sure the uterus is clean and that the ovaries are working.
Any cow which has had a bad calving, twins, a dead calf, held its cleansing or had milk fever or mastitis after calving are at high risk of problems in the uterus and so will have a reduced conception rate. Some, but not all of these cows, may show ‘whites’ which is a sign of chronic infection. The sooner these animals are treated after calving the greater chance you have of a successful outcome. It would be advisable to get any of these problem cows checked 4-6 weeks after calving so we can sort any problems out and you can keep them as productive animals in your herd.
There are a lot of cows empty when presented for pregnancy diagnosis 6-8 weeks post service. Are you sure your cows are in calf? Getting them checked would be money well spent rather than have them come bulling again after turnout.
Some of you will be pleased to hear that Ubro Yellow (previously Leo Yellow) tubes for treating cows with mastitis are available again with a milk withdrawal of 132 hours. Please give the office a ring if you want some. There is now a manufacturing problem with Synulox lactating cow tubes which are not likely to be available again until July. An alternative, Combiclav, with a 60 hour milk withdrawal is still available but we don’t know if supply will be able to meet demand.
Huskvac orders can still be taken to prevent lungworm infection in replacement heifers.
Remember BVD and Leptospira boosters for your cows may be due before turnout .
Don’t forget to worm your sheepdogs for tapeworm infection. This is important whilst they are working in the lambing fields to reduce the risk of infection spreading to the lambs.