The Deep End

Car­ing for preg­nant live­stock can tax even the most ex­pe­ri­enced small­holder. Tim Tyne dis­cusses how to look after ex­pec­tant ladies and spot the warn­ing signs when some­thing is amiss

Country Smallholding - - Inside This Month - By Tim Tyne

Hav­ing gone to all the trou­ble of ar­rang­ing an ap­pro­pri­ate mat­ing for your cow, sow or other an­i­mal, it is up to you to en­sure that the preg­nancy is car­ried to full term and re­sults in healthy live off­spring. This doesn’t mean that you need to mol­ly­cod­dle. In fact, too much care can be as dan­ger­ous as too lit­tle. How­ever, you do need to de­velop a height­ened aware­ness of your an­i­mals’ be­havioural char­ac­ter­is­tics, as changes in be­hav­iour could be the first in­di­ca­tion of a prob­lem, which, if iden­ti­fied early and treated ac­cord­ingly, may never de­velop into any­thing se­ri­ous.

For the small­holder, pos­si­bly the big­gest chal­lenge lies in ac­tu­ally spot­ting that some­thing is amiss. This may sound sur­pris­ing, as one would as­sume that the close bond that small­hold­ers tend to have with their an­i­mals would make it rel­a­tively easy for them to no­tice any changes. How­ever, where an­i­mals are very tame and used to fre­quent han­dling they of­ten don’t be­have in what would be con­sid­ered a ‘nor­mal’ fash­ion at the best of times and they don’t re­act to peo­ple’s pres­ence in the way that they would if they were less hu­man­ised. When you cou­ple this with the fact that many be­gin­ners lack ex­pe­ri­ence in live­stock hus­bandry, you will un­der­stand why it can be dif­fi­cult for some small­hold­ers to iden­tify that an an­i­mal is ex­hibit­ing spe­cific symp­toms of dis­ease un­til it may be too late for treat­ment to be wholly ef­fec­tive.

Dur­ing ges­ta­tion, I be­lieve that there are three main as­pects that present a chal­lenge to the an­i­mals, and there­fore to the peo­ple who care for them: Stress, nutri­tion and dis­ease. Th­ese three fac­tors are closely in­ter­linked and one of­ten leads to an­other. For ex­am­ple, where in­ad­e­quate nutri­tion re­sults in twin lamb dis­ease (preg­nancy tox­aemia) in preg­nant ewes, the process will be ac­cel­er­ated and ex­ac­er­bated by stress.

Key risk pe­ri­ods

Non-preg­nant an­i­mals cope very well with po­ten­tially stress­ful sit­u­a­tions, such as long jour­neys, han­dling (in­clud­ing for rou­tine treat­ments) and ex­tended pe­ri­ods of in­clement weather. How­ever, in the case of a preg­nant an­i­mal, which may al­ready be suf­fer­ing from nu­tri­tional stress due to the de­mands of the de­vel­op­ing foe­tus, any ad­di­tional pres­sure may be enough to tip it over the edge, even if it is caused by some­thing that it usu­ally takes in its stride.

The key risk pe­ri­ods are early and late ges­ta­tion. Dur­ing the mid­dle of the preg­nancy, an­i­mals can be han­dled pretty much as nor­mal, within rea­son.

Stress dur­ing early ges­ta­tion — around the time of em­bryo im­plan­ta­tion and dur­ing the fol­low­ing few weeks — is likely to re­sult in em­bry­onic losses, which will be ob­served as ap­par­ently poor con­cep­tion rates or high numbers of ‘bar­ren­ers’ within the flock or herd. Where em­bryos are lost very early, the an­i­mal will prob­a­bly come back into sea­son and be mated again, although a cy­cle is likely to be missed. In the case of an­i­mals that usu­ally give birth to mul­ti­ple off­spring, it may be that not all of the em­bryos will be lost, in which case the preg­nancy will progress as nor­mal ex­cept with fewer foe­tuses, and the re­sult­ing off­spring will have lower birth weights than would be ex­pected for their lit­ter size.

Tips for re­duc­ing stress risks dur­ing early ges­ta­tion in­clude:

Carry out rou­tine hus­bandry tasks, such as worm dos­ing, in ad­vance of, rather than dur­ing, the mat­ing pe­riod.

En­sure that an­i­mals are in good health and deal with any is­sues, such as lame­ness, well in ad­vance of mat­ing.

Pro­longed pe­ri­ods of ad­verse weather can cause stress

Carry out rou­tine tasks in ad­vance of the breed­ing sea­son

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.