The Club was addressed by veterinary surgeon, Mairead O'Grady, MSD Animal Health as an independent expert.
Mairead reported that the main causes of disease in young calves were scour, septicaemia and respiratory disease. Scour had a devastating effect on weight gain and calves which had scour in the first three months of life rarely caught up with their cohorts and could be 10% lighter at 21 months. This had implications for achieving weight targets.
If producers were to minimise the incidence of scour what could they do?
- Have enough of them as a tight calving pattern requires one calving box per 15 cows.
- Do a knee test; bedding should be dry enough to not wet your knees.
- Dairy herds; practice snatch calving where the calf is removed from calving box soon after birth.
- Ensure calves suckle with two hours of birth.
- Intake should be 10% of body weight within six hours - aim for sucking period of 20 or more minutes.
- Highest antibody levels in first milk post calving.
- Bottle feed or stomach tube calves which won't suckle.
- Good colostrum is thick and yellow not liquid and pale.
- Calves with low antibody levels (from not enough or poor quality colostrum) are four times more likely to die.
- Very common cause of scour in Northern Ireland.
- Difficult to control, very infectious and can multiply rapidly.
- Some disinfectants fail to control it.
- Isolate infected calves.
Providing a clean healthy environment is essential in the control of Cryptosporidium, Mairead said who also advised on ensuring troughs and feeders being kept clean. Halocur can help reduce the effects of Cryposporidium. It doesn't kill it but delays its development and reduces its excretion and diarrhoea. However she said treatment must start on the first day of scouring and continue thereafter for seven days. Ms O'Grady also discussed Rumen Fluke and said that until relatively recently it wasn't seen as a major issue. In young stock it can result in scouring, ulcers, haemorrhaging and anaemia with a reduction in growth. In adult cows weight loss and reduced milk production are the most common symptoms.
There are no licensed treatments for rumen fluke control but effective treatments are available and producers should consult their vet for product advice. Following her presentation there was a very active discussion period where Mairead took a number of questions from members on various aspects of cow and calf health.
The December meeting of Fermanagh Grassland Club was also the annual meeting when new officials and committee were elected.
The new Chariman is Mr. Cormac McKervey, who has been serving as Club Treasurer for many years. Cormac is Agricultural Manager with the Ulster Bank.
The new Vice-Chairman is Mr. Derek Saunderson from Church Hill while the new Treasurer to succeed Cormac during his year as Chairman, is Mr. Philip Clarke, who has previously served as Club Chairman.
2013 is a big year for the Club as it marks its 50th anniversary.