Practical approach to improving animal health in focus at meeting

NORTH WEST UFU RI Farm
ISSUES: Pictured at the North West Derry UFU Group sheep and beef meeting hosted at Dromboughil Resource Centre, Dungiven, are guest speaker Sarah Campbell, MVB., MRCVS, veterinary technical advisor with MSD Animal Health, Alan Hunter, UFU Group chairman, and, rear, Nigel McLaughlin, hill farming commodity representative, with Group managers Brian Prue, David Oliver and Kathryn Taylor.

THERE was a great turnout for the first meeting of the season in Drumboughill Community Hall, Dungiven hosted by UFU North West Derry branch.

Upcoming events were announced on the night including a visit to the farm of Jamie Rankin, Co. Donegal and Ryan and Jonny Boggs on Friday November 23 as well as a trip to the Christmas markets in Belfast on Thursday December 20.

Over 40 farmers attended an information evening on improving animal health and reducing the risks of disease during the forthcoming housing period.

Guest speaker Sarah Campbell, veterinary advisor from MSD Animal Health, spoke about the key drivers of disease and discussed with the group ways in which farmers can reduce the stress on animals, especially when buying in livestock, carrying out dehorning, castrating and weaning.

“The biggest challenge to cattle is pneumonia” said Sarah Campbell, “it’s the number one cause of death in cattle from one month of age onwards.

The second biggest killer is Clostridia species which results in conditions such as blackleg so we really should protect our valuable stock.”

The focus of the meeting was on disease prevention as healthy animals don’t require treatment. “Farmers are under increasing pressure to produce milk, beef and lamb without using antibiotics in the process. The only way we can do this is to avoid livestock getting sick in the first place” said Sarah Campbell.

Attendees asked the speaker if it possible to use multiple vaccinations on the same day. The group was advised to discuss a practical approach to their herd vaccination protocol with their farm vet however products such as Bovilis IBR Marker Live and Bovipast RSP for use in cattle as well as Toxovax and Enzovax for sheep are licensed to be used on the same day to reduce animal handling.

An important point was raised by a member of the group regarding the importance of vaccinating just the young stock rather than all animals on the farm.

Sarah confirmed that the older animals such as cows and store cattle are the main source of infection to calves so it is important to include the adults as part of a whole herd approach in order to reduce the infectious pressure on younger animals during the housing period.

Other management issues were discussed such as housing and ventilation which if inadequate can lead to an increased chance of respiratory disease due to viruses and bacteria being unable to escape the airspace leaving them ready to be inhaled by the livestock in the shed.

Sarah gave a detailed overview of sheep diseases and the proper use of vaccines. “Many sheep vaccines such as Heptavac P Plus are inactivated or dead.

The animals immune system doesn’t react very well to dead agents therefore a second dose acts as a reminder to the immune system.

That’s why it is so important to give lambs or bought-in replacements their full primary course of two doses four to six weeks apart” explained Sarah.

It was pointed out by a member of the audience that the dosage information on product labels can be difficult to read. Bovilis.ie is a useful website that was created for farmers to help them produce a vaccination calendar specific to their farm. It’s very simple to use and sends a free text message reminder one week before the booster dose is due.

Chairperson Alan Hunter concluded on the night that preventing disease on our farms requires a holistic approach.

Farmers should look at their housing facilities, biosecurity and nutrition as part of an overall plan to reduce the level of stress and risk of disease and use vaccination as a tool to boost immunity against common agents in both sheep

and cattle.

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