Preparation for Housing Cattle

Jon's Jottings

Hopefully everyone’s finishing up harvesting and thoughts are turning back to your livestock. It won’t be much longer before the weather turns, fields are a quagmire and the cattle are begging to come in. Handling and moving all stock back to housing is a great opportunity to have one day or an afternoon of hands-on animal MOTs. What should we all be thinking about?

Parasites – are an ever present problem for all of us. Faecal egg counts are a great way of establishing whether there is a worm problem. Using expensive wormer unnecessarily is a waste of time and money. We run faecal egg counts in-house and can let you know in 15 minutes if you need to worm, and advise on what products to use. Similarly fluke can also be tested for, although we do need to send these faecal samples off. Using the correct product at this point (if there is evidence of fluke infection) should leave stock clear for the entire housing period. This is also a good time to check and treat for mites. Any animals showing evidence of mites should be treated on entry to prevent infecting the rest of the herd, or if there is a known lice/mite problem in certain sheds, we should consider treating the lot.

Trace elements – Blood testing a few animals at this time should show any mineral deficiencies from grazing, and allows us to correct this in time for calving, through licks or bolusing (my preferred method).

PDs – Checking that the bulls have done their job and finding out what dates you can expect to be busy is a good idea at this time. It allows for future planning of labour and resources, and  also gives an opportunity to change the Body Condition Scores (BCS) of thin or fat cows, so they are perfect for calving. Any barren cows can be removed now or fattened, so they’re not costing money throughout winter. If there are a lot of negative P.D. results we can investigate why, looking at possible diseases or carrying out fertility checks on bulls to find out why it hasn’t all gone to plan.

Lameness – Any badly lame cows, or ones with obvious problems like long toes, should be corrected before coming in for winter, as these problems will only get worse in the sheds.

Calves – Vaccination, vaccination, vaccination. Pneumonia is on the increase and it makes sense to proactively try to prevent it. Prevention gives you the best chance of healthy calves with efficient feed conversion, saving you money in the long run. Blood tests to see what vaccine strategy would be best, and looking at the housing as a whole to try to prevent disease, is best done now.

Health plans – If you haven’t got one at all and would like one, or if you need to amend some parts of your plan, now could be the time. Please give us a call if you would like help with this.