Stresses and strains of summer continue into the autumn

ALNORTHUMBRIA Farm Vets are just coming through one of their busiest late summer periods ever.

The run-up to the breeding sales is always busy with pre-breeding soundness examinations.

The majority of our autumn-calving herds have their bulls checked prior to the pedigree sales and the same farmers need their new purchases tested when they bring them home. A number of our pedigree breeders test their bulls prior to sale.

The same applies to the sheep flock, with several hundred rams checked to make sure they’re fit for the tupping season.

One of the major beneficiaries of this summer’s excellent growing conditions have been internal parasites of all kinds. In cattle we have experienced fatalities from husk and acute fluke infestation in adult suckler cows for the first time ever.

I would urge anyone who has coughing in their grazing cattle to test for lungworm and anyone who has not already had fluke confirmed on their farm to have sheep and cattle tested this autumn, as conditions seem to be perfect this year.

In sheep we continue to identify resistant worms, with some worm egg counts so high that it’s hard to understand how the sheep are still alive.

We try to use these events to establish the wormer resistance pattern on the farm. Then we’re better able to give clients good advice on long term worming strategies on their farm.

Currently most calls involve some blood sampling for trace element analysis. In addition to the usual suspects (copper, cobalt and selenium), we’ve picked up a lot of iodine deficiency this year. It’s critical to correct these problems in advance of bulling/tupping.

The abundance of grass this year means that most silage pits are full or overflowing. It also means that autumn calving has been busy with oversized calves.

Controlling the condition of autumn-calving cows seems to me to be the biggest challenge any beef suckler farmer can set himself – I have concluded that the solution lies mainly with careful bull selection.

Looking forward to weaning and housing, spring-born calves are about to get a bit of a shock unless the nutritionist has been doing his homework.

These calves are currently enjoying the land of milk and honey. Milk and grass is the bovine equivalent, with a combined protein level of about 23 per cent.

Everybody knows the stress caused by weaning and housing but this will be compounded by a dive in protein intake if they are fed either silage or silage and barley. The combined protein level of these is likely to be around 10–12 per cent so protein supplementation is essential for at least the first four weeks after weaning.

It’s also pneumonia-avoidance season for most farmers. Make sure you get the correct vaccine in early to give best results.

If you’re one of the less fortunate ones, use the outbreak to get an accurate diagnosis and quiz the vet on new antibiotics that are available to control outbreaks.

On a wider scale, we have been slightly preoccupied by bovine tuberculosis for a variety of reasons.

Firstly, the well-documented outbreaks in the south of the county, but also sporadic cases more locally. Some of these result from tracings on cattle recently brought to the county from the ‘red zone’.

Others have been here for some time before being identified at the routine herd test or in the abattoir.

The potential for extreme hardship for the affected farmers, their neighbours and others in their parish mean that all of us who are involved in cattle husbandry in Northumberland must be on constant alert against this disease.

At the same time veterinary practices across the North East are currently finalising plans to submit tender applications in the hope that they may remain involved in TB testing on their clients’ farms.

New protocols for the test procedure are also nearly complete so some changes to the way the test is performed on farm may be seen soon.

Funding from OneNE through Lantra Landskills NE continues to allow us to offer our clients a number of opportunities.

The most recent is a BVD control pilot scheme in Upper Coquetdale. Twenty to 30 farms will have their status established and mapped so that the disease can be tackled in a more collaborative way.

We firmly believe this will lead to greater success and will ultimately make our breeding stock more attractive to buyers from Scotland where a BVD eradication programme is already underway.

The Northumberland Monitor Farm, at Donkin Rigg, is about to begin its winter meetings with reports on the Bainbridge family’s drive to make their holding more self-sufficient and more profitable.

In addition FarmSkills and NADIS courses are planned for the coming months and as always we encourage you to suggest new areas where you need training input – and it needn’t only be veterinary.

Looks like autumn’s shaping up to be busy too!