Newsletter December 2016

We have had a nice period of dry weather which has been good for sheep and cattle outside, but we have had the usual problems with pneumonia in housed cattle. This is often due to poor ventilation, especially on still dry days, but other factors to consider include mixing calves of different ages, stress due to weaning/castrating/dehorning or other underlying conditions like lungworm. As always prompt treatment is more likely to be successful especially if you include anti-inflammatories alongside antibiotic treatment.
TB testing continues to occupy us during the winter months, with a full schedule booked until January. If your herd is due for testing then give us a call to arrange a date – your letter will give you a 2 or 3-month period in which to complete the work. If it is not done during this period your herd will be placed on movement restrictions and you may lose part of your single farm payment. At a routine test, we need to have all females over 6 weeks intended for or used for breeding as well as any breeding bulls. Please don’t leave it until the last week to contact us and expect us to get it done!

DIGITAL DERMATITIS can be more of a problem when cattle are housed and there is still no cure. Reducing levels of infection is key to trying to maintain some degree of control and will involve:

  1. Keeping a closed herd
  2. Don’t keep cattle with sheep (sheep can be affected—known as contagious ovine digital dermatitis or CODD )
  3. Regular foot trimming of cattle to maintain hoof shape and horn quality
  4. Well maintained concrete passageways and standing areas to reduce damage to hoof horn
  5. Excellent slurry removal as the bacteria can survive 2 days in slurry
  6. Improve foot health by keeping feet dry (achieved by having comfortable cubicles so cows spend more time lying and reducing slurry build up at corners, feed barriers and water troughs)
  7. Reduce immunosuppression by controlling other infectious diseases, ensure good transition cow management and keeping group movements to a minimum.
  8. Reducing levels of infection in the herd—best achieved by early treatment of affected cows.

Foot bathing is not considered as an effective way to manage dermatitis in a herd as often the footbath will be contaminated so the cows will be walking through a soup of faeces and bacteria. Antibiotics are not licensed for foot bathing dairy cows so if you use them then milk should not be sold for human consumption until 7 days after bathing. This makes control at the herd level extremely difficult. There is a spray containing a different antibiotic available on the market that is licensed for the treatment of digital dermatitis -TAF SPRAY. This can be used on individual cows; as soon as she becomes lame then she should have her foot lifted, examined and trimmed into shape. Any white line lesions or sole ulcers should be treated appropriately and then if she has dermatitis the lesions sprayed. Assessing her response is vital and repeating the treatment of any persisting lesions advised. Dermatitis can delay healing of white line lesions and sole ulcers so careful inspection of the foot is necessary in case more than one condition is involved.




Most of you Dairy Farmers will have heard about SELECTIVE DRY COW THERAPY by now. Some will have been doing it for years. The drivers for its consideration are the fears of developing antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the public perception of farmers using antibiotics on healthy animals unnecessarily. At a recent meeting organised by ARLA the following main points were highlighted:


  1. Cows with low somatic cell counts throughout lactation do not need antibiotic dry cow tubes.
  2. In the high risk 2 week period before calving most cows will not have enough antibiotic left in the udder to protect them.
  3. Teat sealants significantly reduce new infection levels in the 2 weeks prior to calving.
  4. Surgical sterility of the teat ends is vital before administering teat sealant tubes.
  5. All milk buyers will be looking for evidence that you are applying targeted dry cow therapy aiming towards 10% of cows not given the antibiotic.
  6. A training session on achieving surgical sterility of teats before tubing would be very useful and an opportunity to review mastitis control overall.