VET’S DIARY: The moment of truth for William the wonderful

Well, it’s that time of year again. You will find the farm animal vets at Alnorthumbria Veterinary Practice Ltd up to their armpits in muck.

They may be clutching expensive ultrasound equipment or relying on sensitive fingers and years of experience but all are hoping for a positive outcome from every cow examined.

The farmers relax and the atmosphere is good if there is a run of pregnant cows but the mood can quickly change if we call out empty too often.

The worst vibes occur if there are two or three empty cows at the start of a new group or herd then no one knows what to say and we just keep going, hoping for improvement.

We are now finding out if William the wonderful, trusty Terrance or Bertie the bull has worked during the summer.

Poor conception rates occur for a number of reasons even in bulls tested for semen quality prior to joining with the cows.

Disasters can still occur. Deviations and corkscrews prevent service so careful observation was needed during the breeding season.

Infections can cause major problems Campylobacter can result in 30 or 40 per cent empty cows, BVD, leptospirosis and IBR all cause infertility.

Spring this year came late and it seems to have resulted in lighter cows and calves this autumn and slightly poorer conception rates than hoped for.

On a brighter note this autumn so far has been kind allowing stock to stay out longer reducing feed and bedding costs.

With the autumn comes pneumonia in cattle so make sure yours are vaccinated against the worst infectious causes before housing.

Housing spring-born calves with their mothers for two to three weeks prior to weaning also helps. This allows the calves to get accustomed to their winter quarters and feed before the stress of being separated from their mothers

The calf ration needs careful consideration. Too often the calves get silage and a bit of barley. Their diet before weaning of milk and grass has a fairly high protein content so an abrupt change to less nutritious feed leads to poor performance till they adapt.

Housed calves benefit from worming. The right product will control both adult worms and immature ones.

This is especially important at this time of year when some of the worms become encysted in the calves gut ready to re-emerge later in the spring.

Fluke control is also likely to be worthwhile this year. Even though it has been a fairly dry summer, the carry-over from last year means we are still finding fluke eggs in samples from a number of farms.

With cattle prices buoyant it makes sense to get the most performance from the stock you have.