All livestock farmers are entitled to a free visit from the vet to take faecal egg counts from cattle and discuss worming strategies.
I’m told by vets that there is an increased worm burden present already this year, and that farmers need to be on the lookout for worms in calves. The general policy is to wait for clinical signs and then take faecal egg counts to confirm before going in with a dose.
Alternate what products are being used to avoid a build-up of resistance. While a white drench won’t give the same duration of protection as other products, it should still be used and it is relatively cheap.
Calves that are grazing young and leafy or very lush grass will have loose dungs, so don’t confuse this with worms. This type of young leafy grass while highly digestible may not always be the best type of grass for calves as it is very low in fibre, which they need for rumen development.
Feeding some roughage such as straw or hay out in the field may help to balance the diet, particularly where meal is being fed alongside leafy grass. Watch for signs of coccidiosis which can ravage otherwise healthy calves.
At this stage, sexed semen should now be finished on most farms and where there have been enough cows submitted to dairy AI, the switch should be made to beef AI. Some farmers are talking about leaving off beef stock bulls with cows now instead of continuing with the effort of AI.
There are obviously drawbacks with using bulls compared to AI in terms of the availability of genetics. Leaving that aside, a bigger risk is that the bull won’t perform as well and cows will not get served.
A young bull is capable of serving 10 empty females while a mature bull will be capable of serving 20-30 empty females.
Work out how many empty females there are likely to be in the herd before deciding on when to use bulls. If 90% of cows were submitted in the first three weeks and 55% of these held, that means there are still 50% of the herd empty after three weeks.
Every extra week of AI reduces the number of cows to be served by the bull by 10%. So, in a 100 cow herd there will be 50 cows to be served after three weeks of breeding, or 40 cows to be served after four weeks, etc.
Even where there is only a requirement for one bull, I would be inclined to use two bulls at all times just in case one is firing blanks.
With more clover on farms, there is a heightened risk of bloat. Those with experience tell me you will never get bloat when you think you might – it happens when you least expect it. Using 12 hour breaks and adding bloat oil to the water will help to reduce or prevent it.
The issue with 12 hour breaks is that it can be hard on cows, younger ones in particular. The advantage of it from a bloat prevention point of view is that the cows are always grazing tight and so getting more fibre at each grazing.
Bloat oil isn’t cheap but nor is losing cows to bloat. Plus, the savings in nitrogen need to be offset against the cost of bloat oil.