We buy in weanlings and have always had issues with some weanlings getting sick. I was talking to a lad in the mart the other day and he was saying he gives his weanlings an antibiotic when his calves come home that evening. Is this good practice and what should I inject them with?

Antibiotics should only be used to treat animals that are sick with a bacterial infection. Generally, an antibiotic is short-acting and won’t have any long-term positive effect.

Overuse of such antibiotics is likely to contribute to antibiotic resistance. The most common reason for weanlings to be sick is pneumonia, the causes being multi-factorial. Preventative strategies would include vaccination, good weaning management and good ventilation in the sheds when housed. A good lungworm control strategy is also key.

I have always had issues with autumn-born calves getting pneumonia in the shed. I was feeding a yellow powder through the meal and found it great but someone told me it could lead to problems with antibiotic resistance on our farm. Is this right?

Yellow or brown powder is an antibiotic powder. When such antibiotics are fed to animals to treat bacterial infections like pneumonia, the target bacteria are exposed but so too are the good bacteria in the stomach. This is a significant risk factor to developing resistance in bacteria that are then shed in the dung to the environment.

In such a case, I would implement a vaccination plan and review the ventilation in the shed. Ventilation is a challenge in a shed that needs to house 700kg cows and 70kg calves.

We’re in the northwest and it’s been a good grass year. Our cows have come in in pretty good condition and the first few have calved down some every big calves and we’ve had two big pulls and a section out of the first five calved. We have another 20 to calve and, to be honest, I’m dreading the thoughts. Is there anything I can do at this stage to avoid more difficulties?

There are always solutions that can be considered. At this stage, it is probably too late to try to correct cow condition. This would need to have been addressed a couple of months ago. The size of the calf is governed mostly by genetics. Other interventions will depend on access to accurate service dates and thus calving dates. I would suggest this is a case that is well worth discussing with your vet.

Rumen fluke is associated with summers and autumns with high rainfall. Many of the factors which predispose to rumen fluke are similar to the factors which predispose to liver fluke.

I bought some store cattle last spring and they have developed poor feet. My vet thinks it’s mortellaro and I have been footbathing them but it’s labour-intensive. Is there anything else I can do and will it spread to my own cattle?

Mortellaro is a bacterial infection of the foot that we see commonly in cows but less commonly in beef cattle. The only practical treatment is footbathing, which is also an important control measure. Other control measures include reducing the buildup of dung around drinkers and feeders.

I treated for lice in November last year but I had to treat again in January. If I delay the lice pour-on until December, would I get away with one treatment?

The success and duration of lice control will depend on the product used and the manner in which it is used. Adding cattle to a shed is likely to cause a recurrence of the problem.

One option would be to delay treatment until you notice symptoms. This may well allow for only one treatment over the housing period. However, considering lice treatment at housing as part of a complete parasite control strategy may allow for a more economical and responsible use of products.

I have has an issue with hard navels in my autumn calves the last few years. We calve indoors in clean conditions and always use iodine on navels but we are still getting navel infections?

Navel infections are likely as a result of either the calf’s immune system being suppressed or unhygienic conditions. In this case, it sounds like there is not an issue with hygiene.

I would first look at colostrum management, including the cows’ diet pre-calving. Is the quality of colostrum good enough? Are the calves getting enough? Are they absorbing the antibodies? Obviously, there are other possible causes affecting the calves’ immune system. If the problem continues, it should be investigated further.

I housed weanlings last week and had a couple of cases of high temperatures/ pneumonia. They are not vaccinated. Is it too late to vaccinate now?

It’s never too late to vaccinate. Obviously, the benefits of vaccination are best seen if the vaccine course is fully completed before the risk period for the disease, in this case pneumonia. That being said, there are many options for vaccination against pneumonia in the face of an outbreak. However, I would advise caution in the choice of programme. The best course is to discuss it with the vet for the individual farm.

The result of the BEEPS faecal egg test for my cows has shown no liver fluke. I always dosed for fluke here in the past as ground is quite wet. Does this mean I don’t need to dose this year?

Dung samples for liver fluke look for eggs that are laid by adult liver fluke. It takes about three months for a fluke to mature in the animal and lay eggs. As a result, a dung sample may not have any fluke eggs even though the animal has fluke.

A liver with evidence of fluke. The tissue should have a healthy pink consistency.

The results of the dung samples should be interpreted along with known history on the farm, the individual animal and beef health check information available from animals that went to the factory.

I bought hoggets last year and the seller said they were vaccinated with Footvax.

I didn’t vaccinate them this year. Am I too late with a booster shot or will I have to start with two shots again?

If footrot is a problem on a farm, Footvax is a vaccine that is a useful part of a control programme along with, for example, footbathing and prompt treatment.

The vaccine works with a primary course of two vaccines followed by booster vaccines at appropriate intervals. This will be farm-dependent and you should consult your vet to set up the most suitable complete control option on your farm.

I keep the ewes out until the end of January. We are on a fairly wet farm. Will I be time enough dosing when I house? We are lambing in the first week of March.

Every farm is different. One of the main concerns in this situation would be liver fluke. Liver fluke can cause sudden death in sheep and the risk period depends on weather conditions during the summer and autumn. So I would say you need to consider dosing sooner than that. Local knowledge and farm-specific history will help inform this decision.

For spring-born heifer calves, what’s the best dose for worms and fluke at this time of the year and when is the best time to do it if heifers are going inside on 20 November?

Assuming these are replacement heifers for either a dairy or suckler herd, you need to allow for a buildup of immunity to worms in the cattle. Immunity to liver fluke is very poor.

We want to consider what other parasites we may be able to control at the same time, for example lice.

However, we also want to control the parasites before they cause clinical disease in the animal. We try to rotate different classes of anthelmintic to avoid resistance developing. So, in short, there is no best dose. It is a year-, farm- and animal-specific question.

Vaccinating for fluke.

Is rumen fluke still a problem in spring-calving dairy cows and what is the best way to test cows? If positive, what is the best treatment and when?

Yes, rumen fluke is still a problem in some farms in all animal types but it is not an issue in other farms at all. We often see young cattle affected more than adult cows but the cows can be the reservoir for this parasite. We rarely see disease in adult animals.

Dung samples may reveal the presence of rumen fluke eggs indicating the presence of adults in the rumen. This information will help inform a total parasite control plan for the farm. The product choice and timing of dose will depend on calving dates, milk withdrawal and availability of licensed products among other factors.

Dung samples.

Consult your vet

It’s important to note that all animal health problems are quite farm-specific and the best person to answer animal health questions in relation to a farm holding is the veterinary practitioner who is familiar with the type of stock, the animal health history and the conditions on the farm. Consult your vet for advice on animal health issues on your farm.