The animal health plan for Tullamore farm is constantly changing and adapting to challenges as they arise. Developed by the farm vet Donal Lynch and the management team, it has been incorporated into the routines of the farm manager Shaun Diver.
We continue to treat biosecurity as a big risk and we are following a strict biosecurity protocol for any bought-in animals.
Cattle are tested for Johnes disease before arrival and Donal will make contact with a vet from the farm of origin. We are trying to build a profile of health status for the cattle arriving in, but we are finding it difficult to have a specific quarantine plan for keeping purchased stock separate for three weeks.
The farm is currently fluke negative, so all bought in cattle also get a fluke dose.
We have just updated our footbaths at the entry points on the farm to prevent the introduction of disease.
With the flock, we have no evidence of any worm resistance, so strict quarantine dosing is carried out in any bought-in replacements. They receive an orange drench of monepantel (zolvix) combined with an ivermectin and oral fluke drench. They are kept housed for 72 hours and checked for lameness.
All calves receive bovipast RSP at two weeks of age, with a booster given at six weeks and a third shot before housing to cover against pneumonia. This vaccine was given earlier in the year, as the farm had previously had some issues with pneumonia in calves.
The fact that it was a very good spring and the earlier timing of the vaccine have worked well , with no cases of pneumonia in calves this year.
A risk for the farm is housing facilities and space, with some innovative thinking being implemented this spring, in the form of a centre passage being successfully converted to a creep area for young calves.
Cows all receive scour vaccines before calving and this works well with good colostrum management. The calves also get two shots of clostridial vaccine at four weeks, and a booster at eight weeks.
IBR vaccination begins with calves getting live IBR at three months of age and a second shot six months later. The herd gets its annual IBR booster vaccine in December.
All breeding stock receive both BVD and leptospirosis vaccination four weeks out from breeding including any breeding and teaser bulls on farm.
Replacement ewes get both enzovac and toxovac one month out from lambing. We are currently vaccinating the flock for lameness with footvax. This is working well as we have no issues with foot rot.
As a result of some issues with enzootic abortion in early lambs, this year, older ewes over three years old are also going to receive Enzovac.
All lambs receive two clostridia vaccines at four and eight weeks of age, and Heptavac P is given to ewes four weeks out from lambing and at six weeks to lambs.
We have had some issues on the farm with minerals, in particular with grass tetany in both ewes and cows. This year we looked at forage mineral analysis for the dry cows and identified a number of issues. At a meeting in early December we identified the need to feed high levels of magnesium to the dry cows to reduce the risk of milk fever. We also had both high potassium and high molydendum.
We identified the need to bolus cows, and decided to carry this out after calving and before breeding. Cosecure was used to combat copper that was locked up because of high molybdenum.
Our big problem has been grass tetany or magnesium deficiency in grazing stock, which resulted in a loss of two cows last year and four ewes this year.
We confirmed these diagnoses in a local lab, with magnesium being very low in the dead animal’s eye fluid.
The farm is using magnesium bullets at the start of grazing but they only last three weeks. We are currently reviewing this, and may try supplementing higher levels of magnesium in the meal next year.
A big challenge for the farm is high potassium spreading, which has led to magnesium being locked up.
Vet Donal Lynch has carried out extensive work on liver fluke on the farm, taking blood tests, dung samples and following cattle to the factory. We have also followed some cull ewes to the factory and carried out dung samples. All of these have established we are liver fluke-free on the farm.
We are currently using oxlcozanide (zanil) during housing as routine faecal egg counts have shown high levels of rumen fluke. It was decided to dose not because of clinical signs, but because we want to control the risk of high levels of parasites on pasture in spring.
All first-grazing calves get dung sampled for worm eggs every month since the first of May. We check second-grazers every two months for faecal egg counts, and any coughing young stock are treated for lungworm if needed.
In March we had lungworm in our wintered heifers, due to low exposure in the summer of 2019 to lungworm.
We are trying to minimise the levels of dosing in lambs with monthly pooled faecal samples and weights being used for decision-making. Lambs have received two worm doses this year, one early in April for nematodirus and also a white oral dose in the last week.
There has been a big focus this year on calf health, as we started to really work on colostrum quality. Dry cows are getting two to three weeks supplementation of 1kg/day of soyabean meal before calving to help colostrum production.
A huge emphasis is put on dry cow hygiene. Cows with dirty udders at calving are milked out, and calves are fed to reduce the risk of bacteria and scour-causing viruses getting to them before the colostrum.
Calves are dehorned at two weeks of age with local anaesthetic and given metacam painkiller injection.
Eighty five cows calved and 86 live calves at foot. There was one abortion of twins and we lost only one calf at 20 days of age.
A post-mortem was carried out on that calf and nothing was found. All animals that die suddenly on the farm are submitted for post-mortem to the regional veterinary lab.
Ewes are also fed meal and soyabean meal for the last three to four weeks to avoid twin lamb disease, and to help quality colostrum production. There were no significant lamb losses this year from any infectious agents. Early abortions accounted for most losses between scanning and sale.
All lambs and calves receive iodine navel dips shortly after birth and again in six hours.
There is a big emphasis on having high health status heifers and breeding stock for sale. Controlling and monitoring Johne’s disease is ongoing in the herd. We have dewcided to carry out yearly screening or blood tests to establish herd negative status.
Housing is a problem on the farm, with a lack of space as calving and lambing hits full tilt being. With the good weather we had no issues this year, and high-priority areas such as dry cows and calving boxes get intensive cleaning and freshly bedded deep straw beds at all times.
The heavy focus on hygiene, good bedding and maximising fresh air in sheds is really starting to pay off.