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Animal health at winter housing

By Dr Tom Barragry

PHD, MSc MVB, MRCVS, Vet Surgeon, Vet Pharmacologist and Vet Advisor to Provita Animal Health

WINTER indoor housing is a high-risk period for cattle and can be one of the most stressful times of the entire year for cattle.

Animals indoors can be put under stress very easily, which causes an elevation in blood cortisone levels which can trigger suppression of the immune system, thus lowering defence mechanisms against disease. Stressful changes in temperature, environment, ho-using, and feeding can result in a depression of the immune system which coincides with an increase in the rapid spread of diseases, especially as the cattle will be in a confined space.

Lameness, pneumonia, lice, fluke, and worms are common problems associated with winter housing, not simply because of time of year but also because of ventilation, housing, environmental infection pressure, immunity, and other issues.

Nutrition may be compromised in some units and fodder, especially silage, may vary in quality, and hence trace element deficiencies are not uncommon.

Fodder intake cannot always be automatically relied upon to provide all the essential trace elements and vitamins over the winter period, especially where there is overcrowding, lameness, or trough space issues during housing. Quality and quantity of winter fodder is crucial to avoid trace element problems. Interestingly, a random analysis of 320 grass silage samples in the UK in 2018 showed high levels of potassium, but low levels of copper, zinc, iodine, and selenium.

Adequate quality nutrition is important during the winter period to ensure an optimal immune system. Antibody response to respiratory vaccinations, and the severity of pneumonia and parasitic disease outbreaks are all dependant on the degree of functioning of the immune system.

Selenium/Vitamin E is needed for enzyme synthesis, and antioxidant (stress) activity plays a crucial part in immune function and fertility. Vitamin A, together with zinc, directly affects immunity, through both production of antibodies and through maintaining an adequate barrier to infection with healthy skin cells. Vitamin A deficiency not only compromises the integrity of the mucous membranes and skin that serve as first-line defence barriers, but also reduces the primary antibody response in the event of infection.

Certain trace elements and vit-amins are essential keystones for maximal immune functioning. Cobalt is needed by gut bacteria for producing vitamin B12, an essential component in energy metabolism and in producing red blood cells, and for cell turnover. Iodine regulates metabolism and conversion of food into energy.

There are several recognised problems associated with de-ficiencies; low copper is commonly associated with anoestrus, poor conception, embryonic death, and

delayed puberty. Low iodine can be responsible for stillbirths, abortion, and weak calves. Low zinc with lameness, mastitis, and disease susceptibility. Low selenium with retained placenta, metritis, extended calvings, depressed immune fun-ction and poor conception rates. Vitamin A (B-carotene), Vitamin C and Vitamin E are essential as antioxidants for stress.

Provita’s ProVitaMin drench (con-taining 25 minerals and vitamins) will supply all the above much needed trace elements and vitamins at housing. A dosing of ProVitaMin before winter housing will kickstart a healthy immune system and will ensure that cattle get a beneficial start to the stressful winter housing period, enabling them to combat stress, infection, and disease

Winter is a high-risk time for pneumonia infection, which is the most common cause of death in all cattle above one month old. It inevitably results in poorly performing calves. There are several steps farmers can take to prevent pneumonia which include not only vaccination but also by ensuring that ventilation and air quality are optimised.

A continual flow of fresh air throughout a shed is important, and research has shown that animals perform better in clean air. In well ventilated sheds with clean air, animals are much less likely to develop respiratory infections, because there is less droplet infection and pathogen inhalation.

Provita Promist is a unique air purifier containing a blend of natural organic acids, essential oils and wetting agents which together help control the levels of particulate matter, dust and reduce ammonia in the housing of intensively reared livestock. It can be used when new calves/cattle are introduced into houses, or during still weather conditions with stagnant airflow circulation, or until air flow improves in the shed.

Promist can also be used daily in houses that have permanently poor air flow. It should be used above and around the cattle and will purify the air, the surfaces, and the animals. Its herb content will provide an expectorant effect helping to expel organisms from the respiratory tract.

According to field reports, using Promist daily in the cattle/calf shed for the first month or so after housing has resulted in beneficial results. “We didn’t have one case of pneumonia to deal with last year and the calves responded in spades regarding the growth rates they achieved,” reported one user.

Pneumonia cannot be defeated unless air quality, air circulation and air cleanliness are heightened and maximised.

To discuss your winter housing challenges and learn more about the Provita range, call by stand EK50 at the Winter Fair. They look forward to seeing everyone!

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