VET’S DIARY: Attractions of a warm and well-lit surgery

The seasons definitely changed today. As a farm vet I can see the attraction of a warm surgery to consult in and a theatre with operating lights rather than those from a quad bike and a head torch whose batteries are going flat, writes Andrew Sawyer.

Today’s first call involved a trip up a hill in a tractor link box to examine a cow with a broken leg. I’d put on an extra layer, but soon discovered that was not enough, nine hours later I’ve still not warmed through.

The second call was to a downer cow that was inside, but the wind was howling through the shed sides so it was colder inside than out.

Two-and-a-half hours in muddy sheep pens injecting sheep with rain dripping down my neck completed the morning. The mud enlarged my wellies to twice their normal size and made it difficult to get out the way of ewes barging past.

This is such a change to the mild dry autumn we have had so far. Most stock are in good condition, having had plenty of grazing. But on a large number of farms ewes and lambs seem to be especially mineral deficient this year.

Most of the blood samples we are sending away for trace element analysis are coming back low in one or more of copper selenium or cobalt.

Conversely Jenny had a ram die last week of copper poisoning. It was probably fed too well on cake containing copper for the ram sales and then had a haemolytic crisis when it was turned out.

We are getting the first reports of ewes coming back to the ram in their second cycle. This normally shows up where one ram is put with a particular group of ewes.

If he fails to serve them or his semen is not fertile, they start to return after 18 days.

It is important to change raddles or keel at this point to check what’s happening. For most it’s still not too late to change the rams and get a spring lambing.

I’m also doing a lot of pregnancy testing in the suckler herds at present. Most of the cows now calve in the spring; they have been to the bull in the summer and now it’s important to know if they are in calf.

The cows can be grouped according to condition and feed requirements and empty ones are sold to conserve winter feed.

Results as always are mixed, but there have been a few excellent results with fit cows holding in calf very well.

The best farms are now achieving over 90 per cent of cows in calf in a six or seven-week bulling period.

Health planning and monitoring farm results are one of the most interesting parts of the job and especially so when it involves fresh entrants to the farming industry.

There are not enough young people coming into farming, but I had the pleasure of advising a new entrant this week and wish him all the best in his chosen career.