Time 2 Strike: Preventing Blowfly Strike In Sheep This Summer

preventing-fly-strike

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
  • Crovect
  • Ectofly
  • Deltafort
  • Dysect
  • Spot-On

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

References

  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

TIME4TLC – Managing nematodirus in lambs

TIME4TLC – Managing nematodirus in lambs

Nematodirus is a disease caused by gastrointestinal worms which young lambs ingest through grazing, particularly on pasture grazed by young lambs the previous year. It can cause a high number of deaths within a matter of hours and poor growth rates.

This Q&A guide offers answers to common questions surrounding this disease including how to prevent it, how to quickly spot affected lambs, and how to treat them effectively.

What age are lambs most at risk of nematodirus?

Six to twelve week old lambs are most likely to be affected as they are likely to be eating enough grass that could be infected with the worm larvae to put them at risk.

Younger lambs can also be affected if they’re not receiving enough milk which causes them to start grazing earlier, for example, triplets. Those with a weakened immune system, or already presented with other challenges such as coccidiosis, are also more at risk of succumbing to the disease.

From three months-old, lambs are less likely to be affected when they ingest significant numbers of larvae.

Managing nematodirus in lambs

What time of year is nematodirus an issue?

A sudden cold snap that’s followed by a period of warm weather (10°C or higher) can trigger a mass hatch of eggs into larvae that are ingested by the lambs, causing their likelihood of exposure to significantly increase. Lambs are therefore most at risk of becoming infected between April and June due to the colder nights and warmer days that typically occur.

Although generally more of an issue in spring, unpredictable weather patterns experienced in recent years have caused nematodirus challenges to occur as early as February.

What are the signs of nematodirus?

 Knowing the symptoms of affected lambs will ensure prompt treatment can be administered quickly. These signs include:

  • Sudden onset of profuse diarrhoea
  • Dark or black faeces
  • Dull lambs
  • Lambs that stop sucking
  • Loss of body condition
  • Dehydration

How should I prevent nematodirus?

Prevention is better than cure because nematodirus strikes quickly. Faecal egg counts aren’t an effective preventative method because the damage is caused by larvae that don’t produce eggs, however, knowing the signs and taking the following steps will help to reduce the impact of nematodirus:

  • Where possible avoid grazing lambs in fields that were grazed by lambs the previous spring
  • Nematodirus risk varies year on year so keep an eye on the SCOPS nematodirus forecast to predict the likelihood of your flock being affected and for recommended treatment decisions to help reduce the risk of wormer resistance. This useful tool takes data from weather stations across the UK to provide updates on the disease risk level across the UK based on the predicted hatch-date of eggs into larvae
  • Don’t forget your on-farm or in-store specialist can help provide guidance on how to prevent nematodirus, so make sure you get in touch if required

How should I treat nematodirus?

 An effective parasite treatment strategy should be part of a flock health plan that should be put in place by a vet as a priority, and will help to make sure nematodirus is treated at the right time, using the right product.

Taking the following steps when managing nematodirus will also help to prevent wormer resistance, one of the biggest health risks to UK sheep farming at the moment[1]:

  • If just one lamb shows symptoms of nematodirus, treat every lamb within the group as quickly as possible using a white (1-BZ) drench
  • It’s extremely important to dose for the correct weight of the lamb – follow the product guidance for correct dosing measures
  • Conduct a faecal egg count seven to ten days after the drench is administered to ensure treatment is effective. Ensure all groups of lambs are tested separately because the level of infestation will vary between fields. Interpretation of the FEC is complex, so it’s best to discuss this and any next steps with your vet
  • Severely affected lambs may require further treatment which your vet will be able to advise on
  • Consult your vet if you’re unsure as to how to treat lambs

[1] Layout 1 (xlvets.co.uk)

TIME4RATIONING – Rationing advice for spring calving suckler cows

Rationing advice for spring calving suckler cows

It’s essential that spring calving suckler cows are fed balanced diets to maintain tight calving patterns and improve the chances of calving success, which in turn impact herd profitability.

Working out daily feed requirements will help ensure target body condition scores (BCS) are met to optimise cow health and fertility, as well as improve feed efficiency.

Read on to learn what these target BCS are and how to ensure herd energy and mineral requirements are met.

Target body condition scores

Condition score for spring calvers (QMS 2020)

Condition score for spring calvers

Ideally, suckler cows should be calving and bulling at a target BCS of 2.5 to help reduce the incidence of calving difficulties while promoting positive calving intervals. If cows are overweight at calving the assisted calving rate is more likely to increase. There is evidence to suggest that cows with a BCS of 3.5 typically have an assisted calving rate around double that of cows with a BCS of 2.5.

Aim to get pre-calving suckler cows to the correct condition score during mid-pregnancy by grouping cows with a similar BCS and feeding accordingly. Be aware that increasing the amount of energy in late pregnancy to achieve the target BCS can reduce calf vigour at birth.

Heifers and second time calvers are often the leanest cows on-farm so they, along with shy feeders, will need to be monitored more closely to make sure they reach the target pre-calving condition score.

Energy requirements

Autumn calvers require significantly more energy than spring calving beef cattle to maintain body condition while lactating throughout the colder winter months.

The energy requirements for a spring calver per day are 10% of their body weight plus 10MJ. In addition, dry matter requirements are 2% of total body weight. For example, a 600kg suckler cow would require 70MJ/energy and 12kg of dry matter per day.

It’s worth noting that genetics impact the amount of energy required to achieve target pre-calving condition scores. For example, cows put to a Charolais are likely to require more energy than those put to an Aberdeen Angus because larger breeds typically produce larger calves, meaning the cow will require more energy during pregnancy to sustain calf growth.

Generally, suckler cow energy requirements will be met through feeding forage alone and, unless cows are fed straw or have straw mixed into their diets, it’s advised to avoid feeding large amounts of concentrates.

If cows are fed a straw-based diet, aim to feed a good quality concentrate that contains 18% protein such as Lifetime Rearer or Unigold nuts. Bespoke blends can also be created by your local on-farm specialist, and also consider adding molasses to straw to encourage intakes.

Freshly calved cows will require double the energy needed by a dry cow for milk production and to promote recovery after birth. Energy is the key to ovulation and keeping a tight calving pattern, so ensuring the correct energy levels are fed during early lactation will also promote optimum fertility.

Mineral requirements

Mineral requirements

The mineral requirements of pre-and post-calving suckler cows are often overlooked, yet it is crucial the correct levels are fed to promote cow and calf health.

Consider conducting forage mineral analysis and then taking blood tests at least six weeks before calving to pinpoint any deficiencies in the following minerals:

Essential suckler cow minerals[1]

Mineral Impact Solution
Iodine Cows that are deficient in iodine in the last four to five weeks pre-calving are more likely to have weaker calves. Consider bolusing six weeks pre-calving with a high iodine bolus to be sure requirements are met. For pregnant and lactating stock this is 0.5Mg/kg DM.
Selenium A lack of selenium can cause white muscle disease in calves and retained cleansing in cows. Selenium can be administered via a bolus. For pregnant and lactating stock, the recommended level is 0.1Mg/kg DM.
Magnesium Magnesium deficiencies can increase the risk of staggers or hypomagnesaemia post-calving. Pregnant cows require 0.12% of total ration DM while lactating cows require 0.20% of total ration DM. Consider feeding magnesium rolls to achieve this.

Providing supplementary pre-and post-calving mineral blocks such as Vitalyx super suckler or Megastart pre-calver is another option to make sure suckler cow mineral requirements are met. Megastart contains Safmannan®  which will help to increase the immunoglobulins in the colostrum by around 25% which will help to improve calf health.

If you require further advice, consider discussing historical issues with cow health around calving with a local on-farm specialist.

[1] How to manage minerals in suckler cows pre-calving – Farmers Weekly (fwi.co.uk)

TIME4TLC – To Creep Feed Or Not To Creep Feed?

To Creep Feed Or Not To Creep Feed

As every bite is precious, make the most of it by feeding a balanced diet, tailored to high levels of performance and an optimum rumen environment to get lambs away quickly.

Rising prices of feed, fertiliser and energy are putting pressure on margins. As production costs at farm level continue to rise, growing concerns over raw material availability are putting an even greater focus on maximising the use of homegrown resources, especially forage.

Moving lambs as quick as possible will help save on grass in late summer when fertiliser is too expensive to use in some beef and sheep enterprises.

For producers targeting early markets, it is even more important to achieve high levels of performance to ensure lambs can be drafted as soon as possible, freeing up available resources for other stock.

Feed efficiency is highest in the early stages of life and declines with age. As such, it is vital that lambs are fed a diet to maximise early life growth.

Creep feed provides the energy, DUP and starch needed to efficiently increase growth and promote rumen development.

Other benefits include:

  • Reduced energy demands on the ewe (especially for triplets, ewe lambs and ewes in poor condition)
  • Increased number of lambs slaughtered pre- weaning
  • Improved kill out % for lambs slaughtered before weaning

It is important to remember that lambs may not eat enough forage and are at risk of sub-acute ruminal acidosis (SARA) and other diseases due to close contact.

Limiting setbacks in performance pre-weaning

  • As can be seen in the figure below, lambs will be consuming 50% of their diet from grass or other hard feed by 6 weeks of age.
  • It is therefore essential to ensure rumen development is optimised to avoid any setbacks post-weaning.
  • This requires very high-quality grass and/or creep feed – maintain swards between 4-8cm to maximise quality.
  • Where high quality grass is short, creep feed can help to fill the gap and maintain early growth from lambs.
  • Feed should be offered from 2-3 weeks of age.
  • Feed conversion (kg feed:kg weight gain) in young lambs is around 3.5:1 vs 7.5:1 post weaning.
  • For a feed priced at £370 this equates to £1.30/kg gain vs £2.78/kg gain for older lambs.
  • Young lambs are still developing their rumen, as a result they cannot fully digest many raw materials, it is essential therefore to select a feed formulated with only quality ingredients.
To creep feed or not to creep feed

Digestion in the rumen

The rumen is a large fermentation chamber packed full of microbes, which:

  • Digest feed to make energy and protein available to the animal
  • Require a low oxygen environment and a pH of 6.0-7.0 to optimise feed digestion

For optimal growth and digestion, the rumen microbes require a balanced source of effective fibre, digestible fibre, starch, sugars, proteins and trace elements

Rumen function

  • In lambs, we aim to promote rumen development early in life to ensure optimal performance later in life…

Choosing a concentrate for creep feeding:

  • 16-17% crude protein as fed
  • <35% cereals (e.g. barley, wheat or oats) using only highly palatable ingredients
  • Quality protein sources (e.g. soya)
  • Digestible fibre source (e.g. sugar beet), keeping fibre levels below 8% as lambs are unable to digest high levels in early life.
  • 5-10% molasses.
  • 2% high calcium/low magnesium minerals to avoid urinary calculi (crystals in urine)

Managing Stress in weaned lambs

Stress is known to suppress the immune system in lambs, and weaning is arguably the most stressful period in the lamb’s life. Additional stressors from a multitude of sources can also compound this problem further.

To creep feed or not to creep feed

Feeding and management of lambs post-weaning

There are several options available when fattening lambs post-weaning, depending on farm resources and time of year (e.g. grass finishing, grass plus concentrates, brassicas / root crops or ad lib concentrate feeding).

Independent of system there are several universal factors to consider:

  • Tailor the diet to lamb type – Lighter lambs require further frame growth and therefore protein. Heavier lambs need more energy and should be fed cereals or other high energy ingredients.
  • Sort by liveweight and bring groups forward in batches to improve efficiency.
  • Spread diet changes over 2-3 weeks to allow the microbes to adapt and reduce the risk of poor rumen function or acidosis.
  • Formulate concentrates to complement the feed and forages available on farm.

Actisaf® in lambs – overall trial results

Summary:

  • Maximise weight gain when the lamb is most efficient.
  • Make changes to the diet slowly.
  • Management of the lamb around weaning is key.
  • Tailor the diet to the type of lamb and based on the availability of on-farm feeds.
  • Feed Actisaf® live yeast for improved rumen development, rumen function, feed utilisation and daily live weight gain.

Carr’s Billington’s EARLYBITE LAMB PELLETS are a top-quality lamb creep feed containing Actisaf® live yeast to stabilise rumen pH, increase feed conversion ratio, promote fibre digestion and ease transition to concentrate feed.

 EARLYBITE high-energy lamb pellets also offer a balanced source of starch and digestible fibre, and contains EarlyBite® to improve palatability and intakes for faster rumen development and better growth efficiency.

To offer EARLYBITE as a creep feed for lambs up to 12 weeks of age, contact 01228 518860 or speak to your local store or advisor.

Time4Finishing: Parasite Control In Finishing Beef Cattle

Parasites in finishing cattle can cause up to 10% body condition loss, increasing the time it takes to reach slaughter weight[1].

Quarantining and treating any new cattle brought on-farm for parasites, as a priority, will help to prevent new outbreaks within existing herds.

In addition, it’s important to remember that lice, mites and liver fluke can affect finishing beef cattle during winter housing so make sure you know what to look for, and how to prevent and treat infestations, by reading our guide below:

[1] Beef Parasites – Westpoint Farm Vets

Lice and mites

The closeness of housed cattle can make mites and lice easily transmissible between animals. Thick winter coats also provide optimal conditions for lice to breed.

There are two types of lice that affect cattle in the UK: chewing and sucking lice, alongside two types of common mites: burrowing (sarcoptic mange) and non-burrowing (chorioptic mange).

Treatment

Ideally, cattle should be proactively treated for lice and mites at housing to prevent outbreaks over winter. However, if infestations are present on one or more cows, it’s important to remember:

  • The type of lice or mites should be identified before treatment
  • There are a range of treatment products available
  • All other cattle within the housed group should be treated to prevent reinfestation
  • Withdrawal periods may be applicable after using treatment products
  • A repeated dose of products may be required for effective treatment

Lice

Pour-on and spot-on synthetic pyrethroids and pour-on and injectable macrocyclic lactones (MLs) are available for the treatment of lice. The injectable treatment is only effective against sucking lice.

These treatments will not be effective against lice eggs and a second course of treatment is recommended if the product residual efficiency is less than two weeks.

Lice infestations can be a sign that cattle may have underlying health issues. Therefore, making sure your cattle are kept in optimal condition through correct feeding will ensure they have a healthier immune system, reducing their susceptibility to infestations and diseases. Read more about feeding finishing cattle here: Time 4 Finishing.

Mites

The pyrethroid permethrin, ivermectin, doramectin, eprinomectin and moxidectin pour-on treatments can be used to treat non-burrowing mites. Burrowing mites should be treated with systemic macrocyclic lactones (MLs).

Treated animals should be moved to new housing that has not been used for cattle in the previous three weeks.

Speak to your in-store or on-farm specialist for advice on the best products to use to prevent or treat lice and mites in your herd.

Liver Fluke

Finishing cattle grazed in the autumn will be at risk of ingesting liver fluke larvae which, if left untreated, could turn into adult fluke during late winter and early spring. Juvenile fluke migrate through the liver, where they cause liver damage and haemorrhage, to the bile ducts where they mature. Once in the bile ducts, the fluke cause chronic disease which can result in a reduction in feed conversion efficiency and poor growth rates.

Treatment

Liver fluke risk is farm-specific, and if present can either cause chronic or acute disease. Flukicides can be used to prevent liver fluke larvae from developing into adults or to treat those that have already developed over winter.

To help determine whether your cattle are at risk of liver fluke consider the following environmental factors:

  • Pasture and weather conditions – cattle grazed on wet, low-lying pasture or near a water source will be more at risk of contracting liver fluke
  • Regional risk – the NADIS parasite forecast provides useful area-specific alerts

Your vet can also conduct:

  • Faecal egg counts – treatment may be required if more than 5 eggs per gram are found
  • Blood tests

Make sure you seek advice from an on-farm or in-store specialist, or a vet, to determine the risk level of liver fluke on your farm. If your herd is found to be at risk, they will also be able to ensure the right flukicide is used at the right time and in the right way as part of your herd health management plan.

Different products will treat the fluke at different stages. Some treat larvae, while others are effective against adult fluke. Additionally, withdrawal periods following treatment may be applicable.

Remember:

  • Generally, if sheep are found to have fluke on a farm, cattle will be affected too
  • Pasture management measures such as topping rushes, reducing poaching and improving drainage will reduce the herd’s exposure to liver fluke larvae during grazing

Time4Lambing: How To Stop Watery Mouth Before It Starts

watery mouth

Ewe condition will be more important than ever this year to prevent watery mouth as sheep farmers battle antibiotic shortage. 

Focusing on pre-lambing ewe condition and nutrition will improve lamb health, reducing disease incidence, severity and reliance on antibiotics, says Simon Mellor, Animal Health Advisor at Carr’s Billington. 

“Particular attention should be paid to diets in the six weeks before lambing for two reasons: this is when ewes start to produce colostrum, and 70% of foetal growth takes place during this period. An optimised diet will reduce the incidence of lambs with low birth weights which in turn will reduce their susceptibility to diseases like watery mouth.”  

Mr Mellor recommends sourcing high-quality nuts or cake, if supplementary feeding is required, to achieve recommended pre-lambing body condition scores (BCS). The target BCS for a 60-80kg lowland ewe at lambing is 3.0-3.5, and for a 40-60kg hill ewe, 2.5. The amount of feed ewes require depends on forage quality, breed, and the number of lambs carried. 

“Feed that contains a premium yeast fraction such as Safmannan® will also help to maximise colostrum quality, which is crucial for boosting lamb immunity.  

“Look for cake or nuts that contains between 16-19% protein, according to forage quality and number of lambs, as this will maximise birth weights and help with milk production and quality. Increase concentrate feeds gradually and divide into two feeds a day if possible, or include in a TMR, to prevent acidosis.” 

To achieve optimum condition, alongside adequate feed, ewes need sufficient minerals and vitamins.  

“Selenium, cobalt and vitamin E help to promote lamb vigour. A nutritional supplement prior to lambing via a feed bucket can be used to provide this,” says Mr Mellor. 

“Carefully assessing ewe condition and nutrition, along with other measures such as making sure the lambing environment is clean, could help to reduce the need for antibiotics that are in limited supply which would disrupt lambing this spring.” 

Time4Lambing: Our Guide To Preparing For The Lambing Season

Preparation for lambing 01

Feeding ewes pre-lambing 

It’s vital that ewe nutrition is optimised throughout pregnancy to aid lamb development, as well as maintain ewe health and condition. Particular attention should be paid to their diet in the last six weeks of gestation, as this is when ewes start to produce colostrum and 70% of foetal growth takes place.  

Splitting ewes up according to the number lambs they’re carrying at scanning, will mean feed can be allocated correctly. This means target pre-lambing body condition scores (BCS) will be met, reducing the risk of problems either side of labour. 

Aim for the following target body condition scores at lambing (AHDB)

Ewe type 

Lowland ewe (60-80kg) 

Hill ewe (40-60kg) 

Ewe lambs 

Target BCS at lambing 

3.0 – 3.5 

2.5 

3.0 

 

If ewes are over-condition, they’re more prone to prolapse. Whereas under-conditioned ewes may have a reduced milk yield and produce lambs with a lower birthweight and/or survival rate.  

Our experts recommend providing cake or nuts that contain 16-18% protein to ewes carrying multiple lambs. This will help to ensure ewes maintain the correct BCS. Providing a higher protein and energy diet will also help to prevent twin lamb disease. 

It’s also important to ensure ewes have enough selenium and Vitamin E in their diet during late gestation. This will help support immune function, which is compromised just before the ewe lambs. These minerals and vitamins are also vital to help improve lamb vigour, survivability at birth and long-term growth rates.  

Metabolic testing, to detect vitamin and mineral deficiencies, can be carried out by your vet and blocks or buckets can be used to supplement livestock. Alternatively, drenches and boluses can be used to ensure individual ewes are dosed.  

Silage analysis should be considered to better understand the dry matter, nutrients and trace elements are available.  

Preparation for lambing

Health planning 

Vaccinations 

Our experts recommend vaccinating against clostridial diseases, such as lamb dysentery, and pasteurellosis, which can cause lamb deaths.  

Breeding ewes will require a primary course of two pasurella injections four to six weeks apart followed by an annual booster four to six weeks before lambing. Clostridial diseases should be vaccinated against four weeks prior to lambing. 

Also consider administering a footrot injection to sheep, at least four weeks before lambing if they’re housed. This will help to prevent it spreading. 

Treat for parasites 

Liver fluke poses a risk to in-lamb ewes as it can cause anaemia, rapid loss of condition and even death. It can also reduce lamb birth weight and cause abortion. Because of this, consider treating pregnant ewes with a flukicide at least six weeks prior to lambing. 

Worms become active once they detect oxytocin in the blood – the hormone that signals the start of milk production in the ewe just before and after lambing. Treating ewes soon after lambing when milk production has begun will therefore be beneficial. 

Lice and scab also pose a risk to livestock during the winter as the parasites tend to be more active when temperatures fall. It’s crucial ewes are treated prior to the lambing season, to reduce the risk of lice or scab being passed onto lambs, as treatment isn’t available for lambs under three weeks of age.  

Lambing kit list 

There’s nothing more frustrating than not having everything you need while you’re in the middle of lambing. Here’s our handy checklist to make sure you’re prepared: 

  • Milk powder 
  • Colostrum 
  • Iodine 
  • Disposable gloves 
  • Marker 
  • Lamb warming box  
  • Infrared lamps and bulbs 
  • Tail and castration rings 
  • Elastrator pliers 
  • Lime/disinfect 
  • Bottles and tubes 
  • Syringes and needles 
  • Prolapse harness/spoon 
  • Gels and lubes 
  • Ropes and instruments 
  • Feeder buckets 
  • Hay racks 
  • Medication that might be required e.g. antibiotics 
  • Glucose solution to treat twin lamb disease  
  • Cade lamb feeders  
  • Clean and disinfect sheds  
  • Set up lambing pens, including cade lamb pens 
  • Check water supply and clean water troughs 
lambing list cover
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View our 2022 Lambing Essentials List

Everything you need to get lambing done right this season

EWE PREPARATION

  • Ewe Feeds
  • Drenches
  • Minerals, Feed Buckets & Blocks
  • POM-VPS Medicine

LAMBING ASSISTANCE

  • Lambing Essentials
  • Marking
  • Gloves
  • Clothing
  • Disinfectants & Cleaners
  • Heat Lamps
  • Equipment
  •  

LAMB NUTRITION

  • Lamb Nutrition & Feeding

Time4Finishing: Preventing acidosis in beef cattle

preventing acidosis in beef cattle

Maximising meat yield and optimal fat cover for finishing beef cattle is all about providing sufficient energy and starch. But this needs to be achieved without upsetting rumen stability. This means finishing rations must be balanced and fed correctly to prevent issues such as acidosis occurring.

What is rumen acidosis?

There are two types of rumen acidosis, acute ruminal acidosis which is more common in finishing cattle and subacute ruminal acidosis (SARA) which is more common in dairy cows. Read more about formulating autumn diary diets to prevent SARA here.

Effect of acidosis

Ruminal acidosis is a metabolic disease caused by prolonged periods of changes in rumen pH from the optimum range, between 6.5 to 7.0 (the ideal conditions for fibre-degrading bacteria), to 5.5 or less.

The fall in rumen pH causes rumen movement to reduce or stop completely. This depresses appetite, reducing feed conversion efficiency subsequently impacting daily live weight gain targets. This means cattle that recover from acidosis may not reach their target finishing weight or take longer to do so.

The balance of the rumen micro-flora is also affected by the change in pH, increasing acid producing bacteria. The acid can damage the rumen epithelium, causing metabolic acidosis, which can lead to shock or death within 24-48 hours in severe cases.

Liver abscesses can develop secondarily to acidosis which can increase the risk of further health issues. Laminitis can also occur, making it painful for cattle to stand, reducing feed intakes further.

Causes of acidosis in cattle

Finishing rations for beef cattle typically contain a high level of rapidly fermentable carbohydrates (such as barley, wheat or concentrates) which are the primary cause of acidosis if:

  • Cattle are suddenly transitioned from grazing or high forage diets on to the finishing diet
  • Cattle ingest large amounts of cereals or a diet high in concentrates in a short period of time
  • Insufficient fibre is fed to accompany the rapidly fermentable carbohydrate rich feed

The clinical signs of acidosis will be presented more quickly if the grain fed is milled or ground, as opposed to whole, because it is fermented faster which increases digestibility.

Symptoms of ruminal acidosis

Not all cattle affected by acidosis will show symptoms. However, common signs include:

  • An enlarged rumen and abdominal pain indicated by belly kicking or tail swishing soon after eating.
  • Cattle may gorge on water after consuming large amounts of cereals or concentrates but stop drinking as the condition worsens
  • Dung may be loose or soft, grey and foamy. It may also contain gas bubbles and undigested feed and have a sweet-sour smell
  • Poor rumination/cudding rates and/or poor appetite
  • 24-48 hours after severe engorgement, cattle may appear weak, lethargic or have difficulty moving
  • Signs of more severe acidosis include a decreased heart rate and an increase in temperature. Some cattle may appear to improve temporarily before becoming severely ill once again

Preventing rumen acidosis in finishing beef cattle

There are simple feed management protocols you can follow that will help prevent acidosis occurring. These include:

  1. Make any diet changes over a two-to-three-week period to allow rumen microbial populations to transition from predominantly fibre digesters to predominantly starch digesters.  Top Tip:  You can achieve this by incorporating 3kg/head/day of concentrate or cereals into the ration and stepping this up by 1 kg every 3 days. Monitor for digestive disturbances as you do, until you have reached the desired maximum feeding level
  2. Ensure there is a supply of roughage, preferably wheat straw, to encourage rumination. Hay or haylage is more likely to substitute concentrate intake and reduce performance. Straw should ideally be chopped between 2-4 inches to minimise sorting.
  1. Consider adding a live yeast into the total mixed ration (TMR) or use a feed formulated to include a live yeast. This can help prevent dietary upset when transitioning to higher-energy rations because the live yeast helps to stabilise rumen pH.
  2. Feed concentrates and cereals ad lib or in small meals, to prevent gorging.
  3. Ensure there is adequate feed space to allow cattle access at all times to reduce competition and gorging.
  4. Make sure clean water is available at all times. Finishing cattle can require as much as 80 litres of water/head/day.
  5. Ensure finishing diets are formulated correctly and keep them as consistent as possible once they are. Consult your local Carr’s Billington on-farm specialist if you require advice or assistance.

Acidosis treatment

You may need to consult your vet for advice if you need assistance with treating acidosis or the secondary issues it can cause.

Time4Calving: Our Guide To Calf Milk Replacers

calf milk replacer

To reach the optimal serving weight by 13 – 14 months old, with the aim to calve down at 24 months, heifer calves must be growing at 0.85kg/day from birth to first service.
Our expert calf and youngstock team are able to offer on-farm advice on feeds and nutrition to help dairy youngstock reach these targets. However, they have also compiled a few top tips on what to consider when it comes to feeding milk replacers for your own reference:

Quantity

Calves should be fed 15–20% of their body weight each day in whole milk or a suitable milk replacer to reach the targeted 0.85kg/day growth rate.

During cold weather, the volume of milk replacer fed should be increased to reflect the fact that calves will be using more energy to keep warm.

If temperatures fall below 200C, for every 10ºC drop, an extra 100g milk powder/day should be fed to a 50kg calf (0-3 weeks of age). So at 0ºC, feed an extra 200g per day. This should be achieved through increasing the volume of milk fed, rather than the concentration. Increasing the concentration will affect osmolality levels and can increase the risk of nutritional scour.

For calves older than three weeks, if temperatures fall below 100C, feed an extra 100g milk powder/day for every 10ºC drop. So at 0ºC, feed an extra 100g per day. This should also be achieved through increasing the volume of milk fed, rather than the concentration.

Schedule

It is important to keep calves on the same milk replacer until weaning as this will avoid upset to their digestive systems, which could result in nutritional scours.

fed at consistent times every day to help the abomasum break down the milk efficiently and prevent digestive issues, such as bloat.

Temperature

Milk replacer should be fed at a temperature of 37 – 39 ºC, as this is within the range of a calf’s body temperature.  This is particularly important during cold weather conditions to avoid lowering the calf’s internal body temperature. For tips on how to correctly mix milk replacer, watch our handy guide below:

Nutritional content

Dairy heifers will require a powder containing at least 22% protein to meet their nutritional requirements. However, some higher protein products, if they are of good quality, will encourage more stature and lean muscle development.

Most milk replacers contain a mixture of dairy and vegetable protein and the quality of the protein and how it has been processed is important. Look for hydrolysed wheat protein as the vegetable protein as it will provide a digestible alternative to dairy protein.

Pea protein, soya protein, wheat protein and wheat flour are typically harder for youngstock to digest and are therefore less available to the young calf. Soya protein concentrate is sometimes used in more economic milk replacers, but its digestibility is much lower than that of hydrolysed wheat.

Additionally, aim to feed a replacer with no less than 20% fat. Calves require energy to keep warm, to fight off infection, to move, and to grow. Calves are not at risk of becoming over fat during the milk feeding period, so the higher the fat content, the better. Fat also provides energy for protein utilisation and therefore encourages higher rates of growth.

Whey or skim?

Whey and skim milk replacers are digested differently by calves. Once skim milk reaches the abomasum, it produces an energy dense casein (an insoluble milk protein) clot that takes between eight to twelve hours to be fully digested. For this reason, calves on a skim-based milk replacer will appear fuller for longer than calves fed with a whey-based milk replacer.

Whey powders contain the whey fraction (a soluble milk protein) of milk which does not need to be clotted to be broken down, so goes straight to the small intestine for digestion. Whey-based milk replacers are therefore digested much faster, typically within two to three hours.

There are no advantages of choosing one type of milk replacer over the other, so long as the quality and digestibility of the raw materials is high. Make sure you speak to your local calf and youngstock specialist to find a replacer to best suit your system.

Provide straw, starter feed and water

Starter feed, straw and water should be provided from birth.

Although they won’t eat large amounts in the first few weeks, allowing access to starter feed will help with rumen development. At birth, a calf’s digestive system has the same four compartments to an adult cow, but only one compartment is fully functioning – the abomasum.

The rumen is under-developed at this stage, but this is the compartment that will become the powerhouse of the calf after weaning. It is therefore essential to encourage rumen development as quickly as possible whilst the calves are on milk.

We do this by providing starter feed rich in starch, which will produce important volatile fatty acids that stimulate growth of the rumen wall, and papillae development on the internal lining.

Equipment hygiene

Feeding equipment should be cleaned and disinfected after each feed to reduce the incidence of disease. If you want to know more about on-farm biosecurity and hygiene, read our calf management blog here.