Vet View : Ainslie Smith, Eden Vet practice in Cupar, Fife
Spring cattle turnout can be a time of year when the hard work of daily feeding and bedding cattle in the shed comes to an end which is a relief for farmers. However, to make the most of the easier grazing season, and to make summer as straight forward and disease free as possible, preparation for turnout is important. Turnout treatments can be broken down into four main areas: Parasites, Clostridial diseases, Vaccinations and Minerals.
Parasites can be loosely split into two groups, internal and external. In young cattle going to grass the main conditions to consider are gut worms, lung worm and clostridial diseases such as black leg. Mineral supplementation will likely depend upon class of stock and farmer preferences.
Adult cattle usually do not need a worm control treatment. Calves born and raised indoors are usually worm free, so do not require treatment at this stage and they will only need it should it be determined by the risk of picking worms up at grass. For more information of cattle parasite control speak to your vet and visit: https://www.cattleparasites.org.uk/
Product choice should be planned with consideration given to the target parasite, farm history and expected sale date for finishing stock, so that withdrawal periods do not hamper sale. Wormers can be pour-on products which need repeated through the summer grazing season. Alternatively, there is a long-acting injection that goes under the skin at the base of the ear. It is important that this is given carefully because if injected into the muscle around the ear the beast can become unable to stand. If accidentally injected into a blood vessel then it can kill the beast.
If lung worm has been an on-farm problem in the past, vaccination can be used. This needs to be given as 2 injections four weeks apart, with the 2nd given 14 days prior to turnout. Wormer should not be given until at least 14 days after the vaccination or it will stop the vaccine working.
Some farms have a history of blackleg or clostridial problems. The vaccines for these are very effective, and the cost relative to the death of a cattle beast is low. If needed these should be used prior to turnout. Annual vaccinations such as BVD and Leptospirosis should be given to cows prior to them going to grass.
Suckler cows should be given a supply of high magnesium minerals at grass. As well as preventing staggers, any cows to calve will get the benefit of slightly better contractions. Some farmers quote wetter calvings with more lubrication. Magnesium can be given in the water, in the feed or as tubs. In areas of mineral deficiency, for example copper or selenium, these should be treated with boluses or minerals.
As well as the routine preparation, planned management procedures should ideally be tackled in advance of turnout. For example, dehorning and castrating calves, foot trimming for cows and pre breeding checks on bulls. Normally bulls are fertility tested 8 weeks prior to going to the cows, so this is a good time get it booked. Any cows or bulls that need their feet trimmed are best done before they are expected to walk round fields for the next 6 months. This should result in better mobility and improved foraging which will allow for faster gains in body condition, and a more successful mating period.
Any fluke treatment on infected farms should have been given through the winter months. Cattle should not need further fluke treatment at turnout unless this has been missed. One final point to note is that rumen fluke has now been found in cattle and sheep on some farms and this is an increasing problem. Prevention of rumen fluke is a complex issue and, alongside many of the above conditions, is best discussed with your vet as part of your own specific herd health plan.
Happy turnout and I am sure we are all looking forward to empty sheds the sight of content cattle grazing.