A time with as many challenges as rewards

Spring has sprung for our farmers, and in turn, we farm vets.

Sunday, 7th April 2019, 13:59 pm
Updated Wednesday, 3rd April 2019, 14:04 pm
Ewe and lambs

This is our busiest time of year, with lambing and calving well under way, and the volume of work has certainly increased over the last month or so.

It is undoubtedly a tiring, and occasionally stressful, time of year for everyone involved in livestock farming, however it is also one of the most rewarding.

It is the end result of a multitude of tasks and hard work over the last year.

It follows on from last year’s pre-breeding checks and preparation, through the weeks of bulling and tupping, into the housing, feeding and bedding of winter, and right up until the last few weeks of managing heavily pregnant stock.

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Of course, while lambing and calving is an accumulation of a year’s work, it is, unfortunately, sometimes the time where problems are first observed.

This can range from bulls producing very large calves to nutritional problems and diseases that cause abortion.

The spring can certainly be as challenging as it is rewarding.

Caesarean sections and the treatment of ill or poorly animals still makes up a large volume of our work during the spring period.

However, there is also a lot of ongoing schemes and testing taking place to reduce issues for farmers in future years.

Bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD) is a disease that causes immunosuppression and infertility.

The BVD Stamp It Out screening tests are well under way, with most herds, thankfully, testing negative for the disease so far.

BVD Stamp It Out is an EU-funded scheme that is paying for the blood testing screening tests and follow-up testing for farms where BVD is located.

By eradicating this disease, and preventing its re-entry, farmers should be able to enjoy improved fertility and reduced incidence of other diseases, such as pneumonia and scour.

Metabolic profiling of ewes is also a useful screening test, which we are currently carrying out (two to three weeks before lambing).

This is a high risk period for pregnancy toxaemia/twin lamb disease in sheep, particularly those carrying multiple lambs.

The condition occurs when the ewe does not receive an adequate energy supply during a time when the rapidly growing foetuses drain energy stores.

The low blood glucose can cause damage to the nervous system, which in turn leads to dehydration and further problems.

By assessing the protein and energy levels of ewes before symptoms are seen, we can put in place preventative measures to minimise the risk of pregnancy toxaemia.

Furthermore, we are currently offering free forage mineral analysis in conjunction with Bimeda animal health to allow farmers to have more detailed information on the feed they are providing to their livestock.

Other free testing currently available to clients includes serology for testing the presence of enzootic abortion of ewes (EAE) – the most common cause of abortion in sheep – and also toxoplasma – the second most common cause of abortion in ewes, which is transmitted by cats.

The results of this testing, unfortunately, do not help greatly with this year’s lambing. However, it will prove useful for future vaccination decision making.

All suspect watery mouth testing is also being paid for in conjunction with the APHA for the duration of March.

Any farmers with any questions or queries relating to any of the above mentioned testing, or indeed with any other spring related queries, are more than welcome to call one of our branches for a discussion with one of the veterinary team.

Finally, we would like to wish all our farmers the very best during this tiring, but rewarding time of year.