With spring calving just around the corner, some planning can make things a lot easier.
Calf scour can cause a lot of stress to both man and beast at calving. Where there has been a history of calf scour on the farm, it may be worth considering using a scour vaccine.
Cost should also be taken into account, as these vaccines can often cost close to €10-€12 per dose. The timing of administration will depend on which product you use. Rotavac Corona is a one-shot vaccine that should be administered from 12 to three weeks pre-calving. January-calving cows can get the vaccine from now on. Bovigen is also a one-shot vaccine. In year one, Trivacton 6 requires a primary shot followed by a booster shot. The primary shot should be administered six weeks pre-calving, with the booster administered at least two weeks after the primary shot. In subsequent years, these cows will only require a booster shot two to six weeks pre-calving.
It is important to follow the administration guidelines. Vaccinating the cow prior to calving will allow her to produce antibodies against the main scour-causing bacteria and viruses. As these antibodies do not pass from the cow to the calf prior to birth, the vaccine will be wasted if the calf does not acquire colostrum from its mother after birth. Ideally, the calf should get about three litres of colostrum within two hours of birth. As the effectiveness of the vaccine will depend on the passive transfer of antibodies from the mother, it’s important that this is followed through on.
There is no vaccine available for cryptosporidium. Clean calving pens and adequate colostrum are essential for preventing this disease from taking over at calving time.
Coccidosis can become an issue in autumn-calving herds. Inadequate bedding and problems with faecal contamination around feed troughs can be a cause.
Calves ingesting faecal material will aid the spread of this parasite. Faecal samples can be taken to determine level of infection but veterinary advice is that if you have one confirmed case in a group of calves, you are better to treat the whole bunch as the chances are the rest have been infected.
Adequate bedding, good hygiene and keeping feed troughs off the ground will help to reduce disease spread. With input costs higher on beef farms it may seem acceptable to try and cut down on straw costs but this would be a false economy. Don’t skimp on bedding material with young calves.
This is a good time of year to assess your annual performance. Make a list of the things you got right and the things you may have done differently. Remember, it is only a mistake if you make it twice – it’s a learning experience the first time. Set yourself targets for 2023.
What are the key jobs you want to carry out on the farm? Should you try something different? How will all the new CAP schemes affect your farm income and what can you do to maximise payments? While it will be an endless list on most farms, it will help to focus the mind if you prioritise the jobs you want to do over the next 12 months.