Busy period is over, but no rest on farms

It appears summer may finally be arriving after a rather dismal and wet May and early June.

Lambing has finished and calving is tapering off, with the few late arrivals coming in dribs and drabs. Most livestock is now out at grass, but this doesn’t mean we should forget about them. There is still work that can be done in terms of improving overall herd health and production.

Bull and tup testing is an important aspect of farm productivity. Ensuring that your stock bull or tup is fertile is key in ensuring a good lambing and calving next spring.

Ideally, we would test bulls on a yearly basis — a recent CPD held at the practice showed that often bulls only manage to work for around four seasons. It is not only poor quality semen that causes bulls and tups to be unsuccessful, lameness, disease and lack of libido are all other reasons that may result in a bull/tup failing to cover the number of females desired.

Another thing it may be worth considering is looking into herd health status. MSD is still sponsoring blood sampling for sheep and cattle. In cattle we are looking at BVD, IBR and leptospirosis, all of which are diseases affecting entire herd productivity. We can send samples away and they will give us an understanding of what diseases are present on a farm, even if they aren’t clinically obvious. A lot of the time these diseases go undetected and can be causing a lot of production losses.

For sheep, we are looking at enzootic abortion and toxoplasmosis, but we can also check flocks for things like border disease and Johne’s. There are vaccinations for a lot of diseases and we can help you get on top of any problems.

Lambs should be growing well and some of the early ones will be being weaned. It is worth looking at lambs of similar ages and noting whether there is a large variety in sizes. Weighing lambs is a good way to monitor growth rates and also the general health status.

Worming is something to consider if lambs appear to be growing poorly. Bring in a faecal sample and we can check for the common worm eggs and other parasites, such as coccidiosis. Trace element sampling is another easy check that can be performed from a blood sample and can be an underlying cause of poor growth.

So while summer tends to be quieter on the farm animal front, there is still plenty that you can be doing.

By Richard Flook, Vet.