Every year, the winter period poses many challenges to the health and performance of your cattle herd and sheep flock. Weaning calves and housing cattle places animals under severe stress.

When an animal is stressed, its immune system is suppressed, which reduces the animal’s natural ability to ward off infection and disease.

If there is an underlying health problem in your herd, there is a greater chance that it will present itself during the winter housing period.

Even before animals are housed, the challenge from parasites such as liver fluke and lung worm become much more prevalent during the autumn and winter period.

Grass Tetany becomes more of a factor as grass dry matter decreases and weather conditions become more variable on a day-to-day basis.

The winter period is one of higher production cost. Therefore, your animals need to be performing to their full potential if you hope to generate a profit from finishing cattle, store lambs or winter milk. Animal health is central to achieving such high levels of performance.

Cutting corners when it comes to animal health is a false economy and a risky strategy. More often than not, you will experience a disease problem that greatly increases your vet bills and will usually lead to higher levels of mortality.

Many farmers report the same health issues in the same animal groups every year. While it is not possible to eliminate all of these problems, you can take steps to reduce the risk they pose to your animals.

Completing a health plan with your vet is a good start. Identifying the cause of the problems will allow you to take steps to address it. Some of these steps are outlined in this focus supplement.

  • Aidan Brennan gives an overview of the health checks to carry out this winter for your cattle herd.
  • Nathan Tuffy gives advice on keeping cattle bought at the mart healthy.
  • Nathan also outlines the importance of hygiene in cattle housing for autumn calving herds.
  • Darren Carty features parasite control in sheep flocks.
  • Darren also has advice on minding working and pet dogs.