Some of you may already have met our new vet, Jack Porteous, a northern lad from Allendale who has just qualified from Nottingham University. No doubt you will all see him over the next few months either on the farm or in the office.
We have been approached by one farmer who has expressed an interest in doing worm egg counts on their sheep on a regular basis via an online testing system, FECPAK. The system can be used by 3 different farmers and will enable worm counts to be done on cattle or sheep. The initial outlay will be shared, and will include the cost of the unit as well as an annual subscription fee, and will allow each farmer to do up to 60 worm counts per year. This means that lambs in each separate group can be tested at regular intervals during the summer, to see if dosing is required.
Via an online system, results can be returned to you within 2 hours so you could hold sheep in the pens after sampling to see if they should be dosed before you let them back out again. If results are clear then you can save some money by not dosing them until necessary. It can also be used to check that your wormer is actually working and that you don’t have a resistance problem on your farm. Further information is available at www.fecpakg2.com or call us to discuss it. Cumbria Farmer Network may be able to provide some help with this project depending on uptake.
Continuing with sheep topics, are you interested in being part of a sheep flock health club? This would give you an opportunity to meet with other sheep farmers to discuss health and management problems, and how they could be overcome. There could be an opportunity to record performance with an online programme, to compare lambing percentage/growth rate of lambs/weight of lambs weaned per ewe/ etc depending on how much information you want to record. This can be used to compare your individual flock performance with other similar flocks, as well as performance over a number of years to see how much it is (hopefully) improving.
We would obviously want similar types of flocks and farms to allow relative comparison as production levels in a lowland mule flock are obviously different from a fell flock. If you think it is for you then please give us a call at the office and we could set up an initial meeting to see if it is worth pursuing, to discuss how often we should have meetings, which topics to discuss and how much it is worth. It may be that each type of flock may want something different from the club. Flock health plans could be included as part of the deal, with opportunities to discuss issues you want, from worming protocols to vaccination programmes and lameness control. If you have only a small flock and want to get involved then if there is sufficient interest we may be able to set a group up for ‘small holders’.
Have you heard of the BVD FREE campaign?
This is a voluntary campaign to try and reduce the incidence of BVD in the national herd, with the aim being to introduce a compulsory scheme to eradicate BVD totally by 2022. BVD is one of the major cattle health problems in the country, causing scour and pneumonia in young animals, as well as fertility and abortion problems in the breeding herd.
It will result in reduced weight gain and milk production, as well as an increase in culling rate. The aim of the scheme is to identify the carrier or persistently infected – PI- animals, which are one of the main ways of disease being spread. These animals are born carrying the virus and will continuously shed it all their life infecting other animals in the herd, with a lot of them never showing any signs of disease. Your herd is at risk of infection from buying in a PI animal, a PI animal infecting your herd across a fence or hedge, or from borrowing equipment or spreading slurry from an infected herd.
The basis of the scheme is to identify and remove the PI animals so reducing infection in your herd. This can be achieved by tissue tagging calves when they are born—tags are available which will take a sample from the calf’s ear when you tag it. This sample can then be sent for testing for BVD virus and if comes back clear the calf is not and never will be a carrier. You can then use this information when you want to sell it, especially important if it may go into Scotland as all cattle there and those going there must be certified BVD free.
It is worth considering starting the testing now as tested stock may become more valuable with time, and before the scheme becomes compulsory. Further information is available at www.bvdfree.org.uk