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CAFRE

Even calves need the right jab

October 7, 2021

Goodness knows with all the discussion around COVID, we now know more about vaccination than at any point in our recent history. Vaccination programmes and animal health was a main part of the discussion at the September meeting of the Newry/Rathfriland Suckler Business Development Group (BDG).

In this case, it was weanling vaccination and management.  For flu like indications in humans, read pneumonia in animals. Nothing is more serious nor potentially more deadly. At the farm of Kevin and Gavin Clarke outside Newry, who run a spring calving herd of dairy x beef suckler cows bred to an easy calving pedigree Charolais bull, Brian Doyle from Clanrye Veterinary Clinic took the members attending through the protocols for handling and administering the vaccines. The advice from Brian was in sync with the practical management of weanlings on Kevin and Gavin‘s farm, where most of the calves will be gradually weaned over the next six weeks. A decision has to be made to sell or retain and finish the high quality weanlings being produced, but either way maintaining healthy animals is a priority.

The evening started with identifying the key infectious agents at play – IBR, RSV, PI3 and the associated pathogens.  When we know the potential infections we are dealing with, we need to address the factors that allow these infections to progress to pneumonia. Stress or rather the avoidance of stress is critical.

There are five key factors to consider in avoiding stress and reducing the risk of pneumonia in autumn weaned calves.

  1. Avoid dehorning or castration of bull calves at weaning or housing. 
  2. Avoid mixing batches of animals, particularly with new additions to the herd and the likelihood of infighting and bullying.
  3. Ensure all housing has proper ventilation with a constant flow and change of air over all animals, with no draughts at animal level.
  4. Have a comprehensive anthelmintic treatment plan to minimise the presence of lungworms or other parasites which weaken the lungs leaving the animals predisposed to picking up bacterial infections.
  5. Vaccinate animals to protect against respiratory diseases when they are healthy and well in advance of housing or other stressful operations such as weaning, dehorning or castration.

Vaccination is an important tool for farmers to minimise the risk of respiratory disease. Planning ahead is critical to ensure the weanlings are not stressed during the vaccination process which might compromise the immune response. There are a range of vaccines available covering different infectious agents, with different administration methods and different activation times. The vaccination programme of choice for your farm should be discussed closely with your farm vet and should be part of an active animal health plan.

Vaccination alone is not a silver bullet to healthier animals. It must be complimented with good biosecurity and high standards of nutrition and management.

A bonus on the evening was the demonstration from group member David Mitchell, Rathfriland of his proto-type 3-point linkage mounted “Fast Fencer” fencing frame, designed and constructed by himself at his engineering business. The fencer eliminates the time consuming aspect of joining small rolls of sheep wire. The frame can accommodate sheep, horse, deer, chicken and barbed wire rolls allowing it to address all heights required. Proof of its effectiveness has come in fencing 800 metres at speed rolling out 250 metres in one go and tensioning accordingly. The frame also has a pulley mechanism to hoist the full rolls up onto the frame and can then tighten the wire.  

This brought the evening to a close and is a further demonstration of the benefits of collective experiences shared within the networking Business Development Groups.

The BDG Scheme is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.