With the autumn/winter calving season upon us, it is important to consider ways to keep cows healthy at this crucial time. There are many challenges during the transition period but the biggest challenges can be the result of the metabolic changes that occur around calving and as the cow transitions into lactation. The main challenges are; trying to maintain hydration when water intake is reduced; mobilising calcium for colostrum and milk production; maintaining energy intake when dry matter intake is reduced.
Housing provides an opportunity to address the range of parasites picked up over the grazing season, to maximise cattle health and productivity over the winter.
The questions of which flukicide to use and when to treat can be challenging, complicated further by the increasing concerns over triclabendazole resistance. Understanding the properties of available flukicides is key to making informed treatment decisions.
Grazing alone cannot always be relied upon to maximise ewe and ram fertility. We should not be complacent about mineral and trace element deficiencies pre-tupping, which is an important time of the flock reproduction cycle.
As the year progresses, it’s time to start thinking about the autumn parasite challenges, we’ve seen some very high worm egg counts this year which could continue into the tupping season. Continuation of the current warm, wet weather could result in us seeing an earlier fluke challenge too.
Through my love of showing and stockjudging success, I have now had several invites to judge shows. It is an honour to be asked to judge any show whether it is local, county or a national breed show.
With warm weather approaching, the risk of heat stress in calves increases. Everyone is well aware that heat stress in adult cattle reduces performance, increases stress and results in increased incidence of disease, and calves are no different. Calves have an upper critical limit of 25°C, however they will start to feel the effects of heat stress at 21°C.
In order to increase performance in any flock, it is important to consider regular body condition scoring (BCS) in order to identify any drastic changes in ewe condition not noticeable through observation alone. Through this you can ensure that ewes are on target for the system and the time of year, and in turn will result in improved fertility, increased lamb performance and reduced incidence of metabolic diseases.
Calf weaning is always a topic of much discussion and debate; it is difficult to filter through advice and figure out what is best for your farm. I have sat around many farm kitchen tables and had the same discussion. As a calf specialist, I would always recommend weaning later, and using a step down weaning method but don’t just take my word for it, let’s have a look at some of the research.