Avian influenza: Housing order to be introduced across England

Housing Order Hero Image

A national housing order will be introduced across England on Monday 7 November making it a legal requirement to house flocks

Mandatory housing measures for all poultry and captive birds are to be introduced to all areas of England from 00:01 on Monday 7 November, following a decision by the United Kingdom’s Chief Veterinary Officer.

Read more online at the Gov.uk website.

visit gov.uk website


cbal & billington group logo

The Billington Group

(“The Billington Group” or “The Group”)



The Billington Group has completed the purchase of Carr’s Billington Agriculture Ltd (CBAL) from Carr’s Group PLC, now becoming the sole owner of the business.

Since its origination in 1998, Carr’s Billington Agriculture Limited (CBAL) has successfully operated as a joint venture between The Billington Group and Carr’s Group PLC with 50:50 ownership. In August, The Billington Group & Carrs Group PLC announced a deal had been agreed to sell Carr’s Group’s stake in the business to The Billington Group. Today both businesses have announced completion of the process.

The Billington Group chief executive Gary Blake said “Following our initial announcement in August we are delighted to have completed our agreement to become sole owners of Carr’s Billington Agriculture Ltd. I would like to thank Carr’s Group for working closely with Billington’s for the past 20 years to grow the business to where it is today.”

Blake added “As a fifth generation, family-owned business we are committed to developing and investing in all areas of the business for the long term and we have already started working on how we improve our business for the long term.

Carr’s Billington is the largest supplier of rural and farming solutions in the north of the country, offering a comprehensive range of feeds, machinery, animal health products, seeds, chemicals, fuels, tools, equipment and clothing.

As part of the transition, The Billington Group have appointed a new MD, Richard Quinn who said, “We’d like to take this opportunity to first and foremost reassure our valued customers that this deal completion will not impact their more immediate interactions with Carr’s Billington”.

“Looking forward however, we do have some exciting plans to improve our operational systems and processes in the background, with the specific aim of improving the reliability of service our customers expect to receive from us. The Carr’s Billington business has evolved considerably in recent years, and we are looking forward to introducing the infrastructure and investment required to support the high-quality of personnel we have on the ground and in the field”, concluded Quinn.


For further information about The Billington Group or the information contained within this press release please contact Sam Thompson – 07824145840.

Email: sam.thompson@ebsgroup.co.uk


 The Billington Group

– The Billington Group are a fifth generation, family company operating since 1858 with offices in Liverpool & Birmingham.

– Today, the group is a growing family of manufacturing and trading businesses operating in the food and agriculture sectors.

– The group employ over 1,500 people with a combined turnover of £325m – The group’s private, family ownership focuses on growing its people and the business for the long term.

– The group’s subsidiaries include:

  • Food Manufacturing
    • English Provender Company – with sites in Newbury and Newport
    • Billington Foods – Scunthorpe, Wellingborough
  • Agriculture
    • Carr’s Billington Agriculture Limited – Multiple sites and stores across England, Wales and Scotland
    • Criddle and Co – Liverpool

Facts about Forage and Fibre

equine forage blog

Feeding horses is both an art and a science – the science gives us information about nutrients and what they do and the art is about applying it to each individual horse or pony. Fibre is a great example of this. Research has confirmed the importance of fibre for maintaining health and well-being but there are lots of different sources and types of fibre available. Knowing which one is best for a particular horse or pony is where the art of feeding comes in.

Not all fibre is the same

Digestibility is a key concept in determining the quality of a fibre source. In principle, the more digestible a fibre is, the more energy and to some extent nutrients, it provides to the horse. Pectin is a very digestible type of fibre and is found in higher levels in sugar beet whereas cellulose is a much less digestible type of fibre. High levels of lignin, an indigestible substance that gives a plant structure, significantly reduces the digestibility of a forage. The older and taller a plant gets, the more lignin is present which is why hay is less digestible than dried grass that has been harvested when the grass is young.

Digestibility of Fibre Spectrum:

Digestibility of Fibre Spectrum




Provides a relatively high amount of energy but with very low levels of starch and sugar Higher in sugar than alfalfa which helps to make it very palatable but not as suitable for those that need low sugar diets Low in starch and sugar but low in energy too – ideal for good doers
High temperature dried so very clean – ideal for the performance horse or horses with RAO High temperature dried so very clean – ideal for the performance horse or horses with RAO Sun-dried so better suited to leisure horses
Naturally abundant in calcium – good for hooves and acts as a natural buffer to acidity in the gut. Contains less calcium than alfalfa so not as good a buffer Much lower levels of calcium and other minerals

Key things you should know about forage!

The term forage is generally used to describe the parts of plants that are above the ground that contain a significant proportion of fibre. The most common sources of forage for horses are grass, legumes such as alfalfa, and cereal straw. It is important to consider that forages are not just fibre, they contain other nutrients such as protein, minerals and sugar too. The climate in the UK means that it is necessary to use conserved forages at certain times of the year when availability of fresh forage is reduced. Forages may be harvested as young plants which tends to be the case for alfalfa in the UK as well as some grass or, they can be allowed to mature to create hay, haylage or even silage.

Why is forage so important?

Just about every article on feeding will include a mention of the importance of fibre for the horse and rightly so. The horse is an herbivore and therefore has a digestive system that functions best on an almost continuous supply of fibrous material. Some of the effects of too little fibre in the diet include:

  • Increased acidity in the stomach – the saliva produced by chewing forage neutralizes acidity in the stomach.
  • Gastric ulcers seem to be exacerbated by exercising on an empty stomach – a couple of handfuls of fibre before exercise can help to stop the acid splashing about and causing ulcers
  • Colic – just as for humans, fibre in the diet helps to promote regular bowel movements which push gas and material through, and out of, the gut. Too little fibre can result in a build-up of gas or an impaction, neither of which are good news for the horse

Forage – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

There are two main criteria that determine the quality of a forage; its nutritional value and its cleanliness and the two don’t always go together. The first priority is that the forage is clean because it doesn’t matter how many nutrients it contains, if it’s dusty or mouldy it could result in respiratory issues.

What’s the difference between hay and haylage?

The principle of conserving forage is based on removing water or oxygen in order to stop the forage from moulding or decaying. When making hay, the water content is reduced to below 20% whereas haylage typically has a water content of between 40 and 50% which is not sufficiently dry enough to stabilize it and so it has to be wrapped to create an anaerobic (oxygen free) environment. There is a definite trend for so-called “haylages” to be drier and a more accurate name for them is “wrapped hay”. There is an important difference between haylage and a wrapped hay and that is that a wrapped hay won’t have undergone fermentation. This is evident from the analysis results where the sugar levels in wrapped hay are exactly what we expect from hay NOT a haylage. This also means that a wrapped hay is less acidic than a haylage.

Soak, steam or both?

Historically, soaking hay was done to improve its hygienic quality. The increase in availability of haylage (or wrapped hays) offered a less laborious alternative to soaking but as it is more digestible, it tends to do some horses and ponies too well. Steaming has become more practical too with the introduction of commercially produced steamers – gone are the days of pouring kettles of boiling water in a dustbin!

There have been several studies looking at the pros and cons of steaming. A recent study found sugars were only reduced by 3% in steamed hay compared to 34% in soaked hay so if you need to reduce sugar content in the hay, soaking is the most effective way to do this. However, submerging in water was found to increase the numbers of bacteria in the hay which may have repercussions for gut health. The researchers therefore advocated soaking first to reduce sugar content and then steam to deal with the microbial contamination.

 Busting Myths about Fibre

Unfortunately a lot of myths abound about different fibre sources. The following information should clarify some of the most common!

 Horses can’t digest fibre, can they?

Well not themselves no but they do have a population of microbes in their digestive tract that can, and the energy the microbes release from fibre is what the horse uses as fuel for work, maintenance or growth. The other key fact is that the horse’s digestive system is designed to slow the transit of fibre long enough for the microbes to break down the fibre and release the energy – if the horse’s gut was like ours, the bugs simply wouldn’t have time to do their work before the food passed through and out of the digestive system.

Sugar Beet contains sugar, right?  

Er, no it doesn’t, well not much anyway, not by the time it has become a feed for horses and other animals. The sugar has nearly all been taken out for use in human foods and what is left is a really fibrous pulp. The pulp itself is less than 5% sugar so less than half the simple sugars found in most hays. Some sugar beet pulp has molasses added to make it a little bit sweeter and more palatable but unmolassed sugar beet pulp is a really great source of highly digestible fibre with a low sugar content. The fact that it is so digestible means it is effective at promoting weight gain safely. As it is fed soaked it can be used in a dilute form to dampen feed and hide supplements for horses and ponies that require a low sugar diet.

Is alfalfa too rich for most horses?

Rich can mean different things to different people but if we take protein as a measure of richness, most alfalfa chaffs in the UK have a protein level of between 12 and 15%. This is comparable to a conditioning cube or competition mix. Most importantly a percentage of protein means nothing until it is considered in conjunction with how much is fed. 1 scoop of a 12% alfalfa chaff weighs around 400grams and so supplies 48 grams of protein which equates to between 6-8% of a 500kgs horse’s daily maintenance needs. Very few people feed more than a couple of scoops per day and so are only supplying around 12-16% of their horse’s total requirement – certainly not a case of being too rich for most horses! Confusion is often caused by the fact that alfalfa is used as a hay in the USA and Canada and so is fed in much, much greater quantities – maybe 10kgs a day. This fact is often missed when information is posted on the internet that relates to feeding this amount of alfalfa.

I can’t use that mix, it’s got oatfeed in and my horse is fizzy

Oatfeed often causes confusion especially when it’s included in feeds for horses in light work or those prone to laminitis. Oatfeed is the fibrous hull from around the grain and is removed when the grains are processed for use in human foods such as porridge. Oatfeed contains around 25% fibre so although it comes from a cereal plant, it’s not the grain itself and so is relatively low in starch at approximately 10-12%. It is supplied in a pelleted form and so can be used to dilute other ingredients in lower energy feeds.

 I can’t feed my horse straw – he’ll get colic

Some people are put off using straw as they believe it can cause impaction colic. This is a shame as straw can be a really useful feed ingredient – straw is high in fibre and has a very low calorie level compared to other forages as it contains higher proportions of indigestible components such as lignin. It is great for mixing with good quality hay or haylage to dilute the calories supplied to good doers especially in situations where it is hard to buy in separate forage such as on a livery yard where forage is provided as part of the livery arrangement. It is recommended to use around 30% straw in the mix with other forages.

Obviously, long length straw should be avoided for those with poor dentition but it can be soaked and/or steamed for those with respiratory health issues. The only downside to be aware of is that one study found that horses fed straw as the sole or predominant forage source were more likely to have gastric ulcers. In the UK, straw is rarely fed as the sole or predominant forage source fed to horses so it is not something many people need to be concerned about.


Avian influenza: Prevention Zone declared across Great Britain

avian influenza blog

Following an increase in the number of detections of avian influenza (bird flu) in wild birds and on commercial premises, the Chief Veterinary Officers from England, Scotland and Wales have declared an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) across Great Britain to mitigate the risk of the disease spreading amongst poultry and captive birds.


Avian influenza Prevention Zone has been declared across Great Britain making it a legal requirement for all bird keepers to follow strict biosecurity measures.

Read more online at the Gov.uk website.

visit gov.uk website

PRESS RELEASE: Carr’s Billington Launches New Dairy Rumen Conditioner


PRESS RELEASE: 14 September 2022

Carr’s Billington launches new dairy rumen conditioner

A new dairy rumen conditioner has been launched by Carr’s Billington, to optimise pH, maintain fibre digestion, and support year-round milk from grass and forage.

The launch of EVOLVE365™ comes at a time when farmers are experiencing variable forage both in terms of volume and quality to feed cows through the winter, following an exceptionally dry summer.

According to Carr’s Billington’s chief technical officer, Jimmy Goldie, EVOLVE365 can improve feed efficiency in any system, with the ability to maximise the nutrient value of all forages.

“The new product has been carefully formulated to withstand the challenges of acidic and variable silage or grass-based diets, that are high in sugar and low in fibre, to deliver improved herd performance,” he says.

EVOLVE365 contains a unique blend of three technologies to help increase milk production and quality, improve gut health and overall immunity, for enhanced productivity: Advanced rumen stabiliser – TechTonic®, protected live yeast – ActiSaf®, and metabolic regulator –Capcin.

Mr Goldie explains that this unique formulation delivers a wealth of performance benefits including: improved feed utilisation, reduced acidosis risk, as well as rumen and gut microbiome support.

“This tailored combination of ingredients should help to support farmers in maintaining productivity through the challenges of forage utilisation this winter and beyond,” concludes Mr Goldie.


Issued by: Hannah Wilson, Pinstone E: h.wilson@pinstone.co.uk T: 07581 654248

Notes to editor

Carr’s Billington Agriculture is a leading supplier of agricultural products to farmers in the UK.

The business operates compound feed mills at Carlisle, Lancaster and Stone and has blend plants at Kirkbride in Cumbria, Micklow in Staffordshire, Lancaster and Wales. It has 28 country stores throughout Northern England, Scotland and Wales, several of which have machinery sales and service departments and fuel distributions depots.

Carr’s Billington has a specialist team of nutritionists who formulate feeds in line with the latest research and development, constantly updating the range so there is a product to meet its customers’ requirements.

Its farm assurance scheme provides full and comprehensive traceability, ensuring customers can have complete confidence in product quality. Carr’s Billington’s quality control system allows it to trace every feed delivery and the source of raw materials used during manufacturing.

TIME4HOOFHEALTH: Are You Foot-bathing Your Sheep Effectively?

footbathing your sheep effectively

Stuart Stamper – Product Manager at Carr’s Billington – offers advice on effective foot-bathing to help support hoof health and subsequent production in sheep.

According to statistics from AHDB, lameness in sheep is said to cost U.K. sheep farmers an eye-watering £28 million every year, or £89.90 per ewe*.

Sheep seriously impacted by infectious conditions such as footrot or contagious ovine digital dermatitis (CODD) are easy to spot because they hobble or ‘kneel’. However, even mild cases of the condition can impact production and spread quickly, so early and accurate detection and management is vital. Avoiding these conditions is especially important as we approach tupping time, as lame sheep at this time are less likely to produce lambs next spring.

Vaccination is a common means of preventing lameness caused by infectious disease, however with a potential Footvax® supply issue looming in 2022, sheep farmers are being advised to look at alternative methods of managing lameness.

Routine foot-trimming to help control lameness and promote better mobility is a common but incorrect management strategy. This can actually spread bacteria and exacerbate lameness prevalence within flocks.

This is also true of foot bathing unless it is carried out correctly. Gathering sheep for foot bathing alone can actually increases the risk of infection.

Foot bathing sheep should be integrated into part of a routine and thought of as a method of disinfection, rather than a stand-alone preventative operation. For example, after sheep have been gathered in a confined area following shearing or scanning.

How to achieve an effective foot-bathing protocol

For foot bathing to be effective, first and foremost it needs to be quick, easy and effective for busy operators to carry out.

If using a 10 percent zinc sulphate solution to manage footrot, sheep need to stand in the product for up to 30 minutes for it to be effective. In reality, simply walking-through a standing product is very ineffective and actually a money waster.

POWER HOOF™ – the latest hoof health range from Carr’s Billington – includes a footbath solution that offers highly effective infection prevention at a lower dosage.

We recommend sheep walk through slowly and calmly for 3-4 steps, then standing on a hard, clean and dry surface for approximately 20-30 minutes prior to being turned out onto pasture. For more effective prevention, hooves should be as dry and as clean as possible before walking through the foot bath.

One footbath of POWER HOOF will accommodate up to 1000 sheep, dependant on cleanliness.

Please be aware that POWER HOOF contains Copper and should therefore not be consumed by sheep and should be disposed of away from where animals will graze.


POWER HOOF footbath solution has been formulated by specialist eminent podiatrists to effectively disinfect and harden hooves at a lower dosage; promoting overall health, mobility and productivity. POWER HOOF is composed of ingredients that get into the wound and draw out the infection, rather than healing the outside for the internal infection to fester:

  • Formalin to improve claw quality and reduce the incidence of interdigital lesions.
  • Copper Sulphate to reduce the rate and severity of active digital dermatitis lesions.
  • Zinc to improve claw integrity to help reduce foot rot, heel cracks and interdigital dermatitis.
  • Heavy-duty surfactants which continue to adhere to and work on the hooves after foot bathing.
  • Contains no QUAT’s or antibiotics, helping to reduce the rate at which antibiotic resistance can occur on farm.

This unique composition makes POWER HOOF better for animals, healthier for humans, and safer for the environment.

To find out more and get your POWER HOOF on order today, call Stuart Stamper on 07977 394536, or contact your local country store or advisor.

TIME4DRILLING – Achieve grass reseeding success

TIME4DRILLING - Achieve reseeding success

The older a grass ley, the less productive ryegrass species it will have in it, and the less response you will get from any nitrogen applied.

Reseeding will ensure an increased yield, quality, and feed value, saving concentrate feed costs further down the line. So it is important to get reseeding right from the outset, to ensure the swards are established successfully and maximum productivity is achieved.

Read this handy reminder guide, put together by our grassland and forage crop product specialists, to make sure you’re fully prepared this year.

Understand soil composition

Grass establishment, and therefore reseeding or overseeding success, depends on soil type and nutrient status. Soil samples will determine the suitability of the fields for grass seed establishment and therefore whether additional inputs will be needed prior to drilling.

The ideal soil conditions prior to overseeding and reseeding are:

  • pH levels between 6-6.5 – this can greatly influence the availability of nutrients within the soil profile
  • Phosphorus and potassium levels at an index of two to make sure nutrients are readily available for root growth


When direct drilling grass seed, remember to check soil compaction first. Consider subsoiling if compaction levels are deeper than 23cm and aerating if levels are between 7-12cm to prevent root growth from being impeded. Click here for a soil structure scoring guide to assess soil compaction.

Choose your method

There are three main methods of reseeding:

  • Ploughing – conventional cultivation
  • Minimum cultivation (min till) – this involves desiccating old swards and lightly cultivating fields to create a fine, level seed bed
  • Direct drilling – no cultivation involved, grass seed is drilled directly into an existing ley that has been desiccated, grazed and harrowed

Ploughing is ideal for burying trash to help reduce competition with the new ley.

Minimum cultivation is generally carried out on fields that don’t have a heavy weed burden that would compete with the newly sown seed, and on wet fields that would suffer from subsoil compaction if ploughed. This method also reduces the risk of run-off and the release of sequestered carbon when compared to ploughing.

Direct drilling is a quick, cost-effective method that can be used to reseed or overseed leys. However, when overseeding there is a risk the grass seed may not effectively establish if competing with the old sward.

Create the optimal seed bed

After soil sampling, seed bed preparation is the next crucial step to consider when reseeding fields.

The two most important points to remember when sowing grass seed are:

  • Grass seed should be no more than 10mm below the surface for successfully germination
  • Rolling is crucial for good seed to soil contact to ensure germination

If conventional methods of reseeding are used, existing swards should be desiccated and left for 14 days before being ploughed, cultivated and stone picked.

The soil may then need to be pressed or rolled to create a smooth fine, firm, and level seed bed. A ‘fluffy’ seed bed will cause the seed to sit too deep, resulting in poor germination.

Once the seeds have been sown, consider rolling the field again in the opposite direction to increase seed to soil contact.

If direct drilling or minimum tillage is the approach, consider using a one pass machine that prepares the seedbed and improves seed to soil contact. Always assess the soil profile for compaction and consider aeration or subsoiling if required.

Don’t forget, if you need advice on which grass seed drilling machinery to use you can speak to one of our machinery specialists.
Find your nearest depot here.

Achieve grass reseeding success

Carefully select grass varieties

Grass varieties should be carefully chosen depending on the grassland production system and their compatibility with the soil type.

When carrying out a reseed, consider the whole sward structure as the grass seed selected and sward density will determine the long-term viability of the established sward.

For example, diploid ryegrass varieties are robust and ensure good ground cover, with their competitive tillering providing good carrying capacity for livestock.

In the case of overseeding, the aim is to choose grass varieties which will compete with the current grasses during establishment, for example tetraploid perennial ryegrass, hybrid ryegrass, or Italian ryegrass.

If reseeding or overseeding a drought-prone field, consider using deep rooted varieties such as Tall Fescues, Timothy, or Cocksfoot. Deep rooted grasses will also generally tolerate heavier soil types that can often be colder or more prone to waterlogging.

Legumes such as white and red clover can be included in the grass mixture to increase protein content of the sward and fix nitrogen.

If you’re unsure about which mixture to select, our comprehensive Grass and Forage Seed Catalogue provides a full range of our high performing Mega Leys grass mixtures.

For your FREE Grass & Forage Seed Catalogue 2022 please email forage@carrs-billington.com

Ring: Forage Line on 0800 023 4416

View online

TIME4SHOW & SALE: Show Cattle Preparation Guide

Show cattle preparation guide

Show cattle preparation guide

Cattle show judges look for correct conformation, body condition and mobility in the ring. Making sure cattle are properly prepared will help to enhance positive attributes and strengthen any weak areas, improving the chance of a prize on show day or a higher price at sale.

Read our pre-show guide to ensure your cattle will be looking their best on the day:


Supplying a balanced diet is key to creating a champion. However, it’s important to remember that feeding should achieve muscle growth and enhance development but not impact health.

To reduce health issues, cattle should be fed depending on their breed, age and type i.e., whether they’re breeding bulls or suckler cows.

If cattle are being reared for the show ring from birth, they should be switched from milk and calf pellets onto a slower growing mix to prevent them becoming too fat too quickly. At eight to nine months of age cattle should be moved onto a pre-show ration.

If older cattle are being readied for showing, they will need to be fed a pre-show ration three to four months before the show date.

If you need more advice on how to ensure cattle are in the best condition for the showring, speak to your local Carr’s Billington’s on-farm specialist who will take the following into account:

  • Forage analysis and availability
  • Animal targets and farm focus
  • Input costs

Our team will be able to suggest the most suitable, ready prepared coarse mixes, such as the Supreme show mix, or explain more about custom mixes and blends.  

Top feeding tips:

  • Slower digested starch sources including rolled oats, barley and maize products and quality digestible fibre sources, such as sugar beet pulp, aid development and provide energy without digestive upsets
  • Adding linseed into the diet can improve coat shine
  • Biotin and zinc can also help enhance skin, hair and hoof quality
  • Consider using a live yeast, such as Actisaf®, to help stabilise the rumen pH, maximising feed utilisation and efficient digestion

Washing, clipping and feet checks

Washing and clipping are also important preparatory steps that should be taken before any show or sale.

One month ahead of show day

Show cattle should initially be washed at least four weeks before a show using shampoo and warm water to make clipping the coat easier. Once this has been done, clip away any remaining winter coat and begin training the top line hair to make it easier to manage nearer the show date.

Check feet condition at this point too. Foot problems may hinder the way the cow moves which will bring your score down while in the ring. Catching any problems early will ensure enough time to get them rectified.

A week before show day

Cattle should be washed, blow dried and clipped again up to a week before the show to allow enough time for the hair to grow out and highlight any areas that need last minute adjustments.

Blow-drying a cow after washing will dry them off and make the hair stand up for easier and more accurate clipping.

Clipping is used to improve the overall appearance of the cow, and the general idea is to make heifers look more ‘feminine’ and bulls more ‘masculine’.

Top clipping tips:

  • Clipping the shoulder tighter and leaving a longer top line will help heifers look more feminine
  • Start with the tail, then move to the chest, brisket and navel, sheath, top of the neck and onto the forarm/shoulder. After this move onto the belly/side wall before focussing on the back legs, hind quarters and upper hip. Finish with the top line and top of the tail followed by the head and neck
  • Lubricate the clipper blade around every 30 seconds to keep them sharper for longer and prevent them overheating

On show day

Make sure you leave plenty of time for final cleaning and clipping on the day of the show and don’t forget to take the following final steps just before heading into the ring:

  • Increase the tail volume by backcombing the hair and set it with hairspray
  • Use black and/or white spray to touch up any blemishes
  • Run a soft bristle brush over the coat for a last time to remove any flecks of straw or dust
  • Spray the coat with a final mist spray to increase shine

Below is a handy checklist of show cattle supplies to help you get show ready:

  • Shampoo
  • Clippers
  • Blade lubricant
  • Blow dryer
  • Brushes and combs
  • White coat
  • Feeders and waters
  • Halters, lead ropes and sticks
  • Feed and supplements
  • Hair products including hair, white, black and final mist sprays
  • Suitable livestock handling footwear

If you are short of any show supplies, make sure you drop by one of your local Carr’s Billington stores, where we have all of the essentials in stock.

Time 2 Strike: Preventing Blowfly Strike In Sheep This Summer


How to prevent fly strike in sheep

Fly strike in sheep is predicted to cost the farming industry £2.2m a year1, with almost all farmers suffering some financial loss from the condition2. As we head into prime fly strike season, we outline what you can be doing to prevent the condition in your flock this summer.

What is fly strike?

Blowfly strike is a serious and costly disease of sheep that affects more than 80% of farms in the UK each summer. 

It’s caused primarily by the green bottle fly, Lucilia sericata, which lays its eggs in decomposing matter such as dirty backends, footrot lesions and open wounds. The physical damage is then caused by the larvae (maggots). Other flies can also cause strike, including blue bottles and black bottles. 

Once fly populations take hold, they can be hard to manage due to the speed of the blowfly lifecycle, which can be completed in as little as two weeks (figure 1, NADIS). 

On-farm losses from Blowfly strike are incurred from:

  • Poor welfare
  • Loss in productivity (weight loss and decreased milk yield)
  • Fleece damage
  • Death
  • Treatment costs; including product, labour and time
blowfly lifecycle

Figure 1: Blowfly lifecycle (Source, NADIS)

Common signs of Blowfly strike in sheep

Blowfly strike can occur rapidly, often taking sheep farmers by surprise. If an infestation is missed, it can cause intense suffering and even death and is a major welfare and economic concern. 

The main signs of a blowfly infestation include:

  • Isolation from the flock
  • Discoloured wool
  • Agitation and kicking or nibbling at the affected area
  • Disturbed grazing
  • Tissue decay
  • Toxaemia
  • Death

The severity of a Blowfly strike infestation can vary, starting with lesions on a small area of skin with just a few maggots, spreading to extensive areas of skin. However, a small infestation can rapidly increase due to the short lifecycle of the Blowfly. 

The most common areas affected are the backends of sheep. However, the withers, head, back and shoulders can also be affected. 

It is a legal requirement for all sheep keepers to check their stock daily when sheep are at risk of strike (NADIS). This is due to the rapid nature in which symptoms can develop. 

Treatment options for fly strike

Sheep affected by Blowfly strike will need immediate attention by removing the maggots, cleaning the wound and, depending on the severity, using non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and antibiotics. It’s essential to involve your vet in the treatment. 

Plunge dipping using organophosphates can also be conducted, although the correct administration and disposal of the product are necessary. 

How to prevent Blowfly strike  

Prevention of Blowfly strike should be included in every farm health plan.  

Most fly-related diseases can be prevented by good hygiene and early use of fly control products. Each product has different active ingredients, control periods and withdrawal times. It’s important producers discuss insect control options with their vet or qualified on-farm adviser to find the product most suited to their flock.

The Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS) has produced a list of available preventative treatments. This can be downloaded here.

There are additional management practices producers can implement to help prevent Blowfly strike. These include (NADIS): 

  • Shearing ewes before the onset of the high-risk period
  • Control of parasitic gastroenteritis caused by roundworms in lambs to reduce diarrhoea and, therefore, faecal contamination of the fleece
  • Dagging or crutching of fleece around the tail area to reduce fleece soiling
  • Dipping or use of pour-on chemical formulations to prevent strike or inhibit larval growth
  • Correct disposal of carcases to minimise suitable areas for flies to lay eggs
  • Ensure all wounds and footrot lesions are treated promptly
  • Trapping flies to help reduce overall fly populations – this must be used in conjunction with other control methods. 
  • Using the NADIS blowfly alert to identify the periods of highest risk and take preventative action
  • Examining the flock regularly during at-risk periods – twice a day checks are recommended to identify signs of strike or when there is an increased presence of flies

How can your local Carr’s Billington help? 

At Carr’s Billington, we have dedicated in-store Responsible Animal Medicines Advisers (RAMAs) knowledgeable in fly prevention and treatment. Come and speak to a member of the team today and find out how we can help prevent this costly disease in your flock this summer.  

We stock a wide range of products for the prevention and treatment of blowfly strike, including:

  • CLiK
  • CLiK Extra
  • CLiKZiN
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How To Prevent Heat Stress In Dairy Cows And Calves

heat stress blog

Heat stress in dairy cattle and youngstock is a severe issue affecting productivity, health, fertility, and welfare. And with temperature and humidity levels continuing to rise in the UK, it’s a problem more farmers will already be facing or likely to face in their herds. In this blog, we look at how it can affect stock, symptoms to look out for, and how to prevent it to stay a step ahead.

Cattle are sensitive to factors which impact their thermal exchange with the environment. These factors include:

  • Air temperature
  • Radiant temperature
  • Air velocity 
  • Relative humidity

Heat stress occurs when cows and calves generate and absorb more heat than they can get rid of by respiration, sweating, and air blowing by them. This leads to increased respiration rates, body temperatures, sweating, and time standing and is a significant welfare concern.

Air and radiant temperature directly influence the heat exchange ability of the animal. Air velocity increases the amount of heat transfer from the surface of the cow whilst air movement can also improve evaporation, which assists in heat loss. However, humidity can decrease the heat exchange and have debilitating effects on the cow.

heat stress blog


When does heat stress occur? 

Dairy cows are most comfortable (thermoneutral zone) when temperatures are between -15°C (Lower Critical Temperature (LCT)) to +25°C (Upper Critical Temperature (UCT)). However, humidity plays a significant part because, as the relative humidity increases, the temperature at which a dairy cow exhibits signs of heat stress falls.

Cows begin to experience heat stress at much lower temperatures than humans. This will depend on the animal’s age, production, and humidity. Generally, mild heat stress in cows starts around 22°C with 50% humidity, though high-yielding cows are more susceptible to heat stress as they eat more and generate more heat. They can begin to experience heat stress in well-ventilated sheds at air temperatures as low as 18°C.

Calves will likely start to feel the effects of heat stress at 21⁰C. Above this, they will have to use additional energy to maintain a normal body temperature of 38 – 39°C.

Using the Temperature Humidity Index (THI), it’s possible to determine whether your cows/ calves are at risk of heat stress. THI considers both temperature and humidity to estimate the level of heat stress cows will experience based on environmental conditions.

Cow Plan has developed a nifty calculator to generate real-time THI https://www.cowplan.com/thi .

Table 1 highlights when cows may be heat stressed based on THI.

Heat stress level Temperature humidity index (THI) Respiration (breaths per minute) Body temperature (centigrade)
No heat stress Less than 68 40-60 38.6-39.1
Mild 68-71 60-75 39.1-39.4
Mild to moderate 72-79 75-85 39.4-40
Moderate to severe 80-90 85-100 40-40.5
Severe 90-99 100-104 Over 40.5

Signs of heat stress

When a cow’s temperature exceeds the UCT, they have two main ways to maintain their thermal balance:

  1. Increasing heat dispersion– evaporation through panting, drooling, and increased subcutaneous blood flow.
  2. Limiting heat production– by reducing activity and decreasing her appetite.

Cows that are heat stressed will have reduced production, fertility, and health issues. Research suggests mild to moderate heat stress can reduce yields by 2.6L a cow a day and moderate to severe by almost 4L a day.

Heat stress can also affect fertility and embryo development. For example, according to one study in the Journal of Dairy Science1, cows subjected to heat stress were 63% less likely to get pregnant than those not.

Early growing embryos are also likely to die within the first three days of fertilisation from prolonged periods of heat stress. Heat detection also becomes more difficult due to a cow’s or heifer’s lack of activity or movement.

Calf production can also be severely impacted by heat stress. Youngstock can experience poor growth rates from reduced feed intakes and lethargy, which can cause strain on metabolic processes in the body and increase the risk of disease/illness.

Signs of heat stress in cows and calves include:

  • High respiratory rates (normal = 30-60 bpm for calves/ 40-60 bpm for cows)
  • Dehydration
  • Reduced feed intakes
  • Open-mouthed panting
  • Increased water consumption
  • Sweaty coats
  • Higher rectal body temperatures
  • Calves lying flat out/lethargic
  • Poor growth rates in growing heifers
  • Smaller breeding size
  • Poor fertility
  • Coughing/health problems
  • Reduced milk production
  • Rumination problems/acidosis


9 steps to managing heat stress 

Heat stress can be managed by simple system changes, including:

  1. Monitoring shed temperatures daily – use a min/max thermometer and record temperature fluctuations. Recording humidity is also beneficial to calculate THI.
  2. Adjusting the diet – when feed intakes reduce due to heat stress, the nutrient concentration should be increased to maintain the equivalent nutritional level of the diet. This can be done by increasing the energy density, using high-quality forages and feeding more concentrates. However, care should be taken to balance diets properly to avoid digestive disorders such as acidosis and displaced abomasums.
  3. Changing feeding times – encourage higher intakes by feeding 60-70% of your herd’s diet between 8pm and 8am – the coolest part of the day.
  4. Provision of water –water intakes can increase by 10-20% in hot weather, so it’s essential that yards, buildings, grazing areas, and dispersal areas are well supplied with clean and fresh water. When cows are out in the field, consider adding additional troughs as their activity is reduced. Cows can consume 100L a day in hot weather2.
  5. Assessing air flow – by using smoke bombs. If the flow is inadequate, consider adjusting the ventilation by installing an open/protected ridge in the roof and increasing the number of air inlets. Mechanical interventions such as fans and/or sprinklers can also help. Airflows as low as 10km/hour can reduce respiration rates in heat-stressed animals by as much as 50%.
  6. Reduce sun exposure and improve airflow – look at opening inlets and outlets, prevent hot spots under sunlights, and consider mechanical ventilation, if necessary
  7. Handling – ensure any handling or routine work is carried out in the coolest part of the day
  8. Stocking rates – if possible, consider reducing stocking rates in the shed
  9. Increasing milk intakes – for calves, consider increasing milk by 0.5-1L per day


  1. -K. Schüller, O. Burfeind, W. Heuwieser,Effect of short- and long-term heat stress on the conception risk of dairy cows under natural service and artificial insemination breeding programs, Journal of Dairy Science, Volume 99, Issue 4, 2016, Pages 2996-3002.
  2. BCVA