2014-05-02   facebook twitter rss

Running Sucklers to Suit Our Other Business

Farming just outside Castlewellan, Co Down cousins Michael and Eamon Rice run 120 suckler cows in a spring calving system with all calves are reared through to slaughter.

The Rices also run a busy cattle slat mat business and spend most days on the road fitting mats. The need for an efficient farm system, which allows this time away from the farm was one of the main drivers in their decision several years ago to prevent disease through vaccination.

"We have a business to run off farm and don’t need hassle with sick calves," commented Michael, ‘Every hour spent on the farm must pay and time spent treating disease that could be prevented is not an option”.

Michael and Eamon Rice

Michael and Eamon Rice

Whilst many suckler herd owners focus on preventing or controlling pneumonia after weaning, the Rices were aware that the months at grass before weaning are equally important. For this reason, they sought veterinary advice on the best regime to reduce disease from an early age.

Veterinary surgeon Jim Drayne, Castle Veterinary Group in nearby Castlewellan described his favoured regime: “Vaccinating against the common viruses is essential, but unless we control the bacteria Pasteurella (Mannheimia) haemolytica losses still occur and growth rates are reduced.

The Rices have been using Bovipast RSP and Bovilis IBR marker live from 2-3 weeks old with great results. A second dose of Bovipast RSP four weeks later gives good control of pneumonia throughout the grazing season”.

Aiming to slaughter cattle before 16 months and often achieving slaughter weight before 13-14 months old, pneumonia control after housing becomes very important.

“We take all calves through to slaughter so no setbacks mean calves get away sooner achieving their potential,” Michael explained. “We gather the cows and calves about four weeks before weaning and give a booster dose of Bovilis IBR marker live and Bovipast RSP. Thus calves come into the house ready to grow."

The traditional focus on suckler farms has been to start a pneumonia vaccination programme before weaning, which means that cattle at grass have to be gathered twice in order to receive the 2 shots. This is not often possible or practical.

“With the vaccination course started as young calves and a single booster dose required before weaning it is much easier for farmers to get pneumonia under control”, said Jim Drayne. “Every Autumn farmers seek advice on vaccinating when weaning is imminent or has already happened. This approach does not deliver the best results.

Handling
“If a lack of handling facilities is an issue hindering weanling vaccination I encourage farmers to think about pulling their vaccinations forward to the first weeks of life. A single booster dose around weaning is usually manageable in these situations.”

The pneumonia and IBR vaccination programmes are part of a relentless focus on a healthy herd. Calves also get two shots of Bravoxin 10 to prevent against blackleg, tetanus, bacterial redwater and other clostridial diseases.

Eamon and Michael Rice produce good commercial stock through genetics, good husbandry and a tailored disease prevention programme. Vet Jim Drayne emphasised how few emergency treatments are required on the Rice farm

“Their stock are definitely healthy with no coughing or dirty noses”. Bovipast RSP and Bovilis IBR marker live are part of their recipe for success.

Rodney macgowan

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