Act now for some healthy sav­ings

Put­ting a solid herd health plan in place now can yield big sav­ings over the win­ter, writes

Irish Independent - Farming - - VETERINARY - Ea­mon O’Con­nell

THE dark evenings since the clocks went back have brought with them the be­gin­ning of win­ter.

Feed is a scarce and ex­pen­sive com­mod­ity, and cat­tle prices are noth­ing to write home about. With this in mind, many farm­ers are look­ing to cut down on costs wher­ever pos­si­ble.

The cost of an­i­mal health prod­ucts and ser­vices are al­ways firmly in the cross-hairs when it comes to try­ing to save money.

If you spread fer­tiliser, the grass grows. If you feed meal, the an­i­mal puts on weight.

But when you spend money on an­i­mal health, it is of­ten to pre­vent some­thing from hap­pen­ing, so the results are not as ob­vi­ously ap­par­ent. Be­fore mak­ing any rash de­ci­sions, how­ever, it is worth look­ing at the big­ger pic­ture: a lit­tle spent now could save a lot more in the not too dis­tant fu­ture.


Cut­ting out vac­cines can seem like an easy cost-sav­ing ini­tia­tive. The price of each vac­cine is read­ily avail­able to see and of course, it is one less job to do if the cat­tle don’t have to be in­jected.

But it might be worth tak­ing a minute to con­sider the cost-ben­e­fit of a vac­ci­na­tion strat­egy.

Take sal­mo­nella for ex­am­ple. It costs €5.50-€6 to vac­ci­nate an an­i­mal, which many peo­ple say is quite ex­pen­sive. How­ever, re­cent stud­ies have shown that if an un­vac­ci­nated herd is ex­posed to sal­mo­nella, it can re­sult in a re­duc­tion in an­nual prof­its of over €100 per cow based on a milk price of 33c/ litre.

This makes the cost of the vac­cine seem a lot more rea­son­able.

A vac­ci­na­tion pro­to­col for wean­lings in the au­tumn can also seem ex­pen­sive on first view­ing. De­pend­ing on prod­ucts used, a full vac­ci­na­tion pro­gramme can cost up to €15 per an­i­mal. But if you think of the price of one qual­ity wean­ling bull that dies from a case of pneu­mo­nia, it would buy an aw­ful lot of vac­cine.

If there is a doubt about the risk of any pre­ventable dis­ease in a herd, sam­ples can be taken by your vet to de­ter­mine the level of herd ex­po­sure and if vac­ci­na­tion is needed.

All vac­cines should be kept re­frig­er­ated un­til ready for use.


The mild, hu­mid weather has re­sulted in the emer­gence of par­a­sites, es­pe­cially lung­worm. We have seen an in­crease in the in­ci­dence of dairy cows cough­ing in the past few weeks. Calves too have be­gun to cough.

Rather than buy­ing the cheap­est dose or us­ing what­ever is left in the medicine cab­i­net, it is worth first tak­ing sam­ples to as­cer­tain what is caus­ing the prob­lem.

Dung sam­ples are use­ful in


young stock as they will re­veal what level of worm in­fes­ta­tion is present and, if the an­i­mals were dosed re­cently, how ef­fec­tive the prod­uct was in killing the worms.

A bulk milk sam­ple will show the level of ex­po­sure of cows to worms. It will also give an idea of how milk pro­duc­tion will be af­fected.

A heavy bur­den of worms can re­duce milk pro­duc­tion by up to two litres per cow per day. In a 100-cow herd this year, that can mean a loss of over €400 per week. The price of a wormer with no milk with­drawal could be paid back in a week, based on these fig­ures.

Even though this year has been ex­tremely dry for the most part, watch out or fluke at hous­ing. Dung sam­ples will tell if a fluke dose is needed.


Dry cow tubes cost from €4/ cow up to €12/cow, de­pend­ing on the type of tube and if a sealer is be­ing used. There is a ten­dency to buy tubes based solely on price, or to buy the same as ev­ery year from the trav­el­ling sales rep.

The bac­te­ria caus­ing in­creased SCC and the an­tibi­otics that are ef­fec­tive against them can change from year to year. Tak­ing a few sam­ples from mas­ti­tis cases or chronic SCC cows will al­low your vet to ad­vise you on the best tube to use for your herd.

In a farm with 100 cows, re­cent stud­ies have shown that if the av­er­age yearly SCC rises from less than 100,000 to greater than 200,000, farm profit can be re­duced by up to €15,000.

With any pur­chase, it is im­por­tant to do your home­work. This is es­pe­cially true when it comes to an­i­mal health.

More of­ten than not, with the right ad­vice, and the right prod­uct, a lit­tle spent now can save an aw­ful lot later.

Ea­mon O’Con­nell is a vet at the Sum­mer­hill Clinic, Ne­nagh, Co Tip­per­ary

A lit­tle spent now on your herd could save a lot more in the not too dis­tant fu­ture

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