Over 110 farmers gathered in Shrule, Co Mayo, on Tuesday for the first of the AHI/Teagasc Beef Farm events. The demonstration took place on the farm of Michael Mellett and covered the topics of avoiding antimicrobial resistance, the pilot IBR programme, parasite control strategies and animal welfare.

Animal Health Ireland’s (AHI) Dr Maria Guelbenz, IBR programme manager, warned farmers of the risks associated with IBR on farms and advised farmers of the steps they can take to reduce the risk of an IBR outbreak occurring.

She advised farmers to be aware of the main risks of introducing IBR on to the farm. She told farmers that introducing animals without a quarantine procedure is one of the biggest risk factors. She highlighted the benefits of implementing a vaccination programme.

On the animal welfare stand, Teagasc's Alan Nolan outlined the proper disbudding procedures to the crowd. He said that hot iron disbudding is the only method allowed in Ireland. Calves must be under 28 days of age for disbudding and for calves over 14 days of age an anaesthetic is required. Once anaesthetic is administered, the calf should be left for five minutes to allow it to take effect before proceeding to disbudding. He advised farmers to ensure that the iron is red hot and to test it on a piece of timber before disbudding to ensure it is hot enough.

In terms of castration, Teagac beef specialist Aidan Murray said that the timing of castration has no effect on carcase weight. He said that castration can be carried out using rubber rings when the calf is less than six days of age. In order for farmers to castrate calves, the calves must be under six months of age. Calves over six months of age must have anaesthetic administered prior to castration by a vet.

Parasite control

The last two stands of the walk covered the topics of parasite control and antimicrobial resistance. The issue of resistance to wormers on Irish farms was highlighted. Teagasc’s Eamon Patten explained that the lowest levels of resistance were found to white and yellow doses, while the highest levels of resistance were recorded for the clear, macrocyclic lactone (ivermectin) doses. He told farmers to use factory reports to assess the level of worm burden on the farm.

Catherine Egan of Teagasc advised farmers to take faecal samples and have them analysed before dosing to assess the need for dosing on the farm. She added that animals should be weighed before dosing to avoid under- or overdosing with anthelmenthics.

Natascha Meunier, AHI, outlined the six Rs to reducing antimicrobial resistnace. Firstly that there should be the right veterinary diagnosis, the right animal should be treated with the right medicine at the right dose rate for the right duration. There right protocol should be followed for the disposal also.