Farm advisers have given some views on dairy and beef issues in this month's farm management notes.

Digital dermatitis - Dairy adviser Christopher Breen asks if digital dermatitis a problem on your farm? Routine foot bathing is the most practical method of control, but to be successful it must be carried out effectively. Without regular foot bathing the incidence of digital dermatitis will increase weekly during the winter.

Ideally provide a double foot bath, a bath to wash the cows feet, followed by a treatment bath. The wash bath is needed to remove dung which reduces the effectiveness of the chemical in the treatment bath. If there is not enough space to fit in a double bath, wash the cows feet with a hose before they leave the parlour on the way out to the foot bath.

To allow the chemical time to penetrate the cow needs to take at least three strides through the treatment bath. For this to happen the bath must be at least three metres long. Fill the bath to a depth of 10 cm to ensure the foot is covered up to the top of the hoof. The frequency of treatment depends on the incidence of infection in the herd. The minimum regime is to bathe after four consecutive milkings each week

It is important to make up the foot bath mixture accurately using the recommended amount of chemical. Dilute mixes are not effective. More concentrated mixes may damage cows feet leading to more incidences of lameness. Using the correct amount of chemical also applies when topping up the foot bath. Measure accurately, don’t guess!

Prepare for spring calving on beef farms - Adiver, Nigel Gould advises farmers to prepare well in advance of the main spring calving period. Assess facilities and calving supplies to allow enough time to replenish stocks and make any adjustments. Important items include calving aids/ropes, iodine solution for navels, arm length gloves, calving lubricant, disinfectant, artificial/frozen colostrum, stomach tubes and/or feeding bottles.

A general rule is to allow one calving pen for every 10 cows, but more are required where a very compact calving is anticipated. When entering a pen with a calving or freshly calved cow have your escape route planned and never turn your back on the cow. Keep dogs out of sight in particular as they can trigger a protective response. A good calving gate makes handling cows easier and much safer for you, the cow and calf.

Disinfect pens thoroughly between calvings and use plenty of straw. After the calf is born treat navels with a strong iodine solution. Ensure the calf gets adequate colostrum as soon as possible after birth (10% of calf body weight within six hours). The ability of a newborn calf to absorb antibodies from colostrum deteriorates rapidly from birth. If thawing frozen colostrum, do so in good time. Freezing in bags or containers with a large surface area reduces thawing time. Overheating will destroy antibodies. Never use a microwave to defrost colostrum. Be mindful of the risk of bringing disease into your herd via colostrum from another herd.

As the housed period progresses, lice may re-emerge as an issue. Continually check for visual signs of lice such as scratching or hair loss. There are two main categories; sucking and biting lice. Ivermectin based injectable products are sometimes expected to control lice, however, this is really only the case for sucking lice. Specific pour-ons which target both categories of lice are the most effective method of control. Clipping the animals back before pour-on application helps the product reach the skin for absorption. When treating cattle for lice, it is necessary to treat all cattle in the shed. Also treat any cows that may be in calving sheds as they can reintroduce lice to the shed when they return.