VET’S DIARY: There’s no let-up for the farm vets

Limousin cattle are back in vogue.
Limousin cattle are back in vogue.

Looking back through the diary for inspiration revealed the past few months have been full of cow and sheep caesareans.

Clearly, spring is always a busy time for a farm vet and thisyear has been no exception.

The season starts early and ends late for us with pedigree flocks lambing at the turn of the year and hill farms tending to start their lambing and calving in April.

The good weather in March meant that lambing then was generally very good, allowing lambs to be turned out to grass early which reduces the build-up of infection in the shed.

Conversely, late April and so far May has been wet and cold which has led to increased levels of disease, such as watery mouth, navel ill and joint ill. The mild winter led to ewes maintaining their body condition well up to lambing time, increasing lamb birth weights and dystocia (difficulty lambing) respectively.

A sheep caesarean is a quick and relatively routine procedure which is usually successful in delivering a large live lamb.

Oversized lambs, usually big singles, can be delivered as quickly and inexpensively by caesarean and with a much better outcome than by persevering with the normal route of delivery.

The beef market demands appear to be swinging back towards strong, well-grown cattle again so the larger terminal sires such as the Charolais, Limousin and British Blue are back in vogue.

The past decade has seen the rise of the Aberdeen Angus and Stabiliser breeds, which, in general, are easier calving but with a smaller calf to sell. This shift has kept us busy with calvings and caesareans throughout the spring.

I am pleased to report that, thanks to a discount on handling facilities, calving crates are now a common sight on Northumbrian farms so battered and bruised vets are becoming a rarer site, although Claire Riddle may dispute this.

With the housing period coming to an end, our focus switches to turnout-related issues.

Tidying up cattle before turnout is carried out by dehorning, castrating, worming and vaccinating.

Autumn calvers are pregnancy tested. Bulls are tested for suitability for breeding.

Spring may be turning to summer, but there is no let-up for the farm vets.