Jack Smellie concludes her feature series on health planning on the smallholding
Final part of our series
Parasite control, grazing and land management
Looking back at our parasite control, grazing and land management, this is an area of our health plan where we feel things have gone pretty well. We have had no worming issues in our lambs and kids to date thanks, we believe, to rotational grazing, cows and sheep ‘cleaning up’ after each other and our low stocking rates, although we must not be complacent because we are now in a (potential) time of peak ‘pasture larval contamination’ (July/ August). We did have high burdens in our goats late in their pregnancies: goats are notorious for suffering from high burdens and frequent FECs (Faecal Egg Counts) can be the only way of keeping on top of this.
We have also had some nematodirus and one case of coccidiosis: both of these were caught early, treated accordingly and the animals concerned suffered no ill effects. Nematodirus is nasty! The larval stages (which do not shed eggs so cannot be identified in a worm egg count) cause clinical disease in lambs as well as the actual adult stage. In addition, because of its life cycle (it can stay dormant in the ground till the following year and then a weather-dependant mass hatch can occur leading to severe disease), the only way of keeping on top of it is to keep an eye on the parasite forecasts on www.nadis.org.uk and act accordingly.
After a great start to the spring with lots of lush grass, we then had our fields sprayed to get rid of the docks, nettles and reeds and a bit later they were topped. This did mean that for about five weeks, we only had access to two out of our three fields,
but the grass held up and now we might be in danger of having too much! Essentially though, all our young stock has been able to feast well and current growth rates and general well-being are good.
Housing and shelter
Our field shelters have proved invaluable and we strongly believe they have played a vital role in keeping our stock healthy. All through the winter there was space for every animal to escape under cover if they needed to (and we did have a few bad storms). For the goats (where we had a bit of a bullying issue for a while), there was a choice of enclosures in our barn plus their field shelters and without this choice, the animals concerned may have been a lot more stressed. Stress can be a major issue when it comes to the health of stock: we lost an adult alpaca to a suspected gut torsion, brought about in part (so our vet believed), by the stress of shearing two days previously.
One of the biggest housing successes was using our quarantine ‘collecting’ area as winter housing for the cows which gave them a double shelter plus an outside woodchip pad. Knowing how crucial ventilation is for cows, this half-in and halfout set up was perfect and we got through the winter with no coughs or sneezes at all, plus there were days when the cows got to feel the sun on their backs!
Aside from removing any one-off jobs from our health plan (e.g. building field shelters/ splitting our six acre field in two), we don’t currently have any other major alterations to make or additions to add, other than those already mentioned. Maintaining the numbers and types of stock does contribute towards minimal changes, but it is still always crucial each time a ‘situation’ occurs, to ask oneself if a) it could have been prevented and b) what one might do differently next time to minimise any negative outcomes. The result of those deliberations should then form the basis for any health plan changes, alongside (naturally) a chat with your vet.
We are counting our blessings at the end of our first year here and feel fantastically lucky that we have not been hit with too many bad things. We have, in fact, come full circle in that, as per our introduction in our first health plan article, we still ‘don’t know what we don’t know’ and, no matter how good a heath plan you have, and how vigilant you are, that is something to be very aware of. If in doubt, phone the vet! MORE: Jack and David’s website is www.relaxed.ltd.uk
Jack’s partner David with a Boer goat. “We had no worming issues in our kids this year thanks in part to low stocking rates and rotational grazing.”
“Our Winter Cow Pad worked a treat .”
Rotating pasture between pigs and goats can work well Mixed grazing groups can be problematic but FECs and keeping numbers low will help to minimise any issues Nematodirus and coccidiosis can affect young stock in particular – vigilance and prompt treatment are key