Health plan­ning

Jack Smel­lie con­cludes her fea­ture se­ries on health plan­ning on the small­hold­ing

Country Smallholding - - Welcome -

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!

Mov­ing for­ward

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

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