20160302 BHC Newsletter Spring 2016 FINAL



Declan Carty More to consider than calf price in dairy-beef systems


Rebecca Carroll

Cryptosporidiosis in suckler calves

P6 Maresa Sherran Parasite Control at Turn out for Beef Animals

Animal Health Ireland, 4-5 The Archways, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim. Tel: +353 (0) 71 9671928, Email: admin@animalhealthireland.ie www.animalhealthireland.ie

More to consider than calf price in dairy-beef systems

Darren Carty, Livestock Specialist, Irish Farmers’ Journal

A n expansion in the Irish dairy herd as farmers react to the abolition of milk quotas has witnessed a sharp rise in calf births over the last two years. The Department’s AIM statistics report shows the number of births registered to dairy dams increasing by just over 45,000 in 2014 while ICBF analysis shows a further increase in the region of 100,000 dairy births in 2015. Delving deeper into the extra calves born in 2015, about 70,000 of these were sired by Angus and Hereford breeds. It would be natural to expect that such an increase in calf births could instil some downward pressure on the trade. This has not materialised to date however with an increase in the number of farmers operating a dairy-beef system, either exclusively or in tandem with existing farm enterprises, following a steady upward trend. Reports suggest interest levels remain high with a steady outlook forecast for the trade this spring. Reasons often given by farmers progressing down a dairy-beef route include the low entry cost. This is only one aspect and should not be the sole criterion on which decisions are made. Below are a number of factors to take into account if considering or introducing a dairy-beef enterprise to your farm. • Low entry but high capital costs: The capital costs associated with dairy-beef systems are highest for intensive Friesian bull finishing systems followed by Friesian and beef cross steers and typically lowest with early maturing breeds where steers/heifers can be finished off grass before a second winter’s housing period. However, costs alone will not dictate margins with some early maturing systems having lower output potential.

• Realistic budget: A production budget should be prepared using realistic levels of performance and rational costs. If considering purchasing Angus and Hereford calves it is worth assessing the various schemes to get a run-down of what is required to secure bonus payments. • Calf quality is critical: Calf quality can have a huge impact on performance and also the final sale value. The main markets for dairy bred animals prefer animals with a carcase weight of 270kg or higher and grading O= or better. This will also impact on the potential to secure bonus payments (scheme and QPS). Select calves ideally over 50kg liveweight with a good frame, good straight top loin, not excessively narrow at the shoulder or hindquarter and with a good bone structure and no large belly. • Age of calves: Calves born from January to mid- March will achieve higher performance from grazed grass in year one than later-born calves. • Purchase from known sources: Purchasing from a known source has many benefits including getting an indication of background breeding which in turn may give a flavour of potential performance. • Rearing facilities: While the basic principles are similar, managing calves requires good facilities with adequate ventilation, maintained to high standards of hygiene. Close monitoring and attention to detail is essential to disease avoidance.




Cryptosporidiosis in Suckler Calves

Rebecca Carroll, Assistant Programme Manager, AHI

C ryptosporidium parvum commonly known as crypto is a tiny parasite that causes scour in 1-4 week old calves. Cryptosporidiosis (Crypto) causes damage to the small intestine and this damage results in diarrhoea which may be mild or severe. Generally speaking, infected calves will recover but death can occur in severe cases. When calves are also infected with other organisms such as rotavirus, deaths may be more common.

Crypto can affect beef and dairy calves. Typically a suckler calf with crypto will be dull and reluctant to drink from the cow and become dehydrated as a result of the scour, which may last 5-12 days. The clinical signs of crypto are similar to the clinical signs following infection with other causes of scour. Therefore it is important to take faecal samples to get an accurate diagnosis.

Table 1. The absolute and relative frequency of pathogens identified in port mortem submissions alone (PM) and combined with faecal clinical samples (Total) submitted to DAFM veterinary laboratories during 2014 Source: All-island Animal Disease Surveillance Report 2014. A joint AFBI / DAFM Veterinary Laboratories publication Crypto is a common cause of scour in this age group of calves. The Regional Veterinary Laboratories report that it is commonly found in faecal samples from scouring calves and in samples taken from calves that have died of scour.

Taking faecal samples: • Sample calves in the early stages of disease (scouring for 1-2 days) • Only sample untreated calves • Collect the samples in sterile containers • Deliver the sample promptly to your veterinary practitioner




Crypto is highly infectious and is spread by the faecal-oral route. Infected calves pass the parasite in their dung and other calves may become infected if they ingest even tiny amounts of this material. Good hygiene is vital to reduce the spread of crypto. Calving pens and sheds should be thoroughly cleaned, disinfected and left free of animals for at least 3-4 months before the start of a new calving season. Crypto is a tough robust parasite and many of the disinfectants commonly used on farms are not active against it. Therefore, farms with a crypto problem should use one of the disinfectants listed below (Table 2).

• Calves with cryptomay be treatedwith a product containing halofuginone lactate. This will not cure crypto but is licenced to reduce scour when it is given within 24 hours of the onset of diarrhoea. It is a prescription only medicine and a prescription from your veterinary practitioner is required to obtain it.

Trade name Interkokask Keno™ Cox Neopredisan

Active ingredient

Chlorocresol Amine based



hydrogen peroxide with peracetic acid

Table 2. Disinfectants active against Cryptosporidium parvum . These products should be used for disinfecting animal housing only and should never be administered to an animal.

Treating a suckler calf with Cryptosporidiosis

There is no routine drug regime that is consistently successful in treating crypto. Therefore a palliative or supportive approach to treatment is required. • Isolate sick calves with their dams in a clean dry pen • Suckler calves should be left with their dams and allowed to drink normal amounts of milk • In addition, feed 2L of electrolytes twice daily while the scour persists.

See the AHI leaflet Management of the scouring calf for more information on management of scour [click here] .




Disease control measures Ensure suckler calves suckle colostrum within 2 hours of birth. If not they should be fed 2-3L of colostrum with a nipple feeder or stomach tube Replace or top up bedding regularly in pens where calves are housed. To judge if bedding is dry enough: kneel down and when you get up, your knees should be dry. Isolate scouring calves (with their dams) to prevent spread to other calves. Anyone in contact with the calves should wash their hands and change their clothes and footwear after handling sick calves to prevent spreading the parasite on their clothing. On farms that experience severe problems with cryptosporidiosis every year, the calves may be treated with halofuginone lactate for the first 7 days. Treatment must be started from birth and continued daily for the first week. Halofuginone lactate does not prevent infection but it reduces the severity of the diarrhoea and the build-up of crypto in the environment. Cryptosporidiosis in humans Cryptosporidium parvum can be spread to people through contact with infected animal or contaminated food and water. To prevent human infections: • Farmers should wash their hands, change their clothes and footwear after handling sick calves. • Children, the elderly and immunocompromised people should not handle sick calves. • Farm owners should comply with all the regulations regarding the collection, storage and disposal of slurry and run-off water from animal buildings to prevent water contamination.

To test if the bedding is dry enough, kneel down and when you get up, your knees should be dry.

See the AHI leaflet Cryptosporidiosis in neonatal calves for more information [click here] .




Parasite Control at Turn out for Beef Animals

Maressa Sheeran, Regional Veterinary Laboratory, Kilkenny

T he aim of any parasite control programme is to ensure that the health and performance of your cattle is not affected by parasites. Farmers may control parasites by a number of methods (If any farm relies on dosing/anthelmintics alone they will increase their chances of building up resistance on their farms and even getting to a situation where drugs are not effective any more. Once resistance develops on a farm it does not revert, i.e. even if you stop using a particular dose for a while it will not start to work again. If you suspect resistance on your farm this can be tested for using faecal samples, talk to your vet about how to do this). You should control parasites on your farm by A) Grazing Management Use pastures with lower levels of parasites for younger animals i.e. Low Risk Pastures • New or reseeded pastures • Pastures that have not been grazed by cattle from the previous housing period to mid-season (June/July) • Pastures that have been grazed by sheep alone for 1-2months • Pastures that have been co-grazed with sheep and cattle

Gutworms Adult suckler cows - low risk

It is rare for adult beef cows to show any clinical signs of gut worm infestation. They should not require dosing for gutworms. Second season grazers - medium risk These animals are not fully immune to gut worms and can experience production losses and occasionally disease. Lack of exposure to infection during their first year (as seen in late-born calves, beef suckler calves or groups that receive intensive anthelmintic treatment) may result in high parasite levels. First season grazers-risk depends on calf type These calves initially have no immunity to parasites and are at risk of clinical, as well as subclinical gut worm infestations. Suckler calves and calves from dairy herds bought in for beef systems must be considered separately in terms of risk factors. Beef Suckler calves are at a low risk, as they are grazing with their mothers and have low herbage intake. Also milk may reduce the effects of parasites. Body condition and growth rate shouldbemonitored during the season and faecal samples from 10-15 calves (which can be pooled) should be checked for parasites. If nutrition appears adequate, significant numbers of worm eggs are present and growth rates are below target, then the use of anthelmintics is justified. (Recent research indicates that group performance can be maintained by treating only those animals with growth rates that fall below target).

• Pastures subject to rotational grazing B) Appropriate Use of anthelmintics

Only use wormers when you need to. Only use them on stock that have parasites at a level that is affecting their health or thrive.




Reinfection Syndrome in Cows If cows that are partly immune to lungworms are exposed to a heavy larval challenge from pasture (e.g. pasture recently grazed by first grazing season animals), they may develop severe coughing and/ or milk drop as their immune system kills the migrating larvae. Such animals will not have lungworm larvae detectable in their faeces, as the immune response is effective, but causes the clinical signs.

If you are buying in dairy calves they will be at a much higher risk from gutworms. You will need to graze them on low risk pasture (see above), closely monitor their liveweight gain and check for signs of diarrhoea (see below re: lungworm) and regularly take faecal samples and get them tested for the presence of parasites and treat with anthelmintics accordingly.

Lungworms Clinical signs of lungworm infection (‘hoose’ cause by Dictyocaulus viviparus) include coughing and difficulty in breathing. Affected cattle have an increased risk of viral and bacterial pneumonia. Immunity aginst lungworm infection develops quickly but is relatively short-lasting (approx. 6 months) in the absence of further exposure to lungworm larvae on pasture. At the start of each grazing season, following housing, cattle may have very little or no immunity to lungworm and thus are susceptible to new infections again. The practice of purchasing dairy calves for beef and placing them on pasture that was grazed by calves the previous year is high-risk and should be avoided where possible. The highest challenge risk periods for animals are late summer and autumn. Photo of the stomach (abomasum) from a bovine animal with a heavy worm burden. Note how the lining is thickened- this stomach cannot work properly.

Lungworm larvae in the trachea of a cow that died of hoose (Photo: D. Toolan, Kilkenny Regional Vet. Lab.)

Liver fluke (Fasciola hepatica) This is usually not an issue at turn-out. If cattle have not been treated at housing, then treatment with a flukicide effective against adult liver fluke before turn-out will ensure that contamination of the pasture with fluke eggs is kept to a minimum.




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