The March Animal Health Series in association with MSD Animal Health Ireland got underway yesterday evening (Thursday, March 16) and was broadcast right here on Agriland.

Last night’s discussion featured Catherine Heffernan, customer and technical support manager with MSD Animal Health Ireland, speaking with vet Donal Lynch from Slieve Bloom Veterinary Clinic, and farmer John Gill, who hosted the chat on his dairy farm in Tullamore, Co. Offaly.

The conversation covered a range of issues in relation to pre-breeding preparations, and why starting these preparations early ultimately pays off.

Some of the key things to watch out for and consider include vaccination, body condition score (BCS), lameness, diet and nutrition, fertility, and once-a-day (OAD) milking.

Best time to vaccinate

On vaccination, vet Donal Lynch highlighted the importance of vaccinating for leptospirosis (lepto), infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR) and bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD), the latter of which can have significant consequences even if the chances of getting it are quite low.

In terms of the right time to vaccinate, Donal explained that for lepto and BVD, which require two shots for the heifers and then one shot every year thereafter, farmers should generally be looking at Valentine’s Day (February 14) for the first shot and St. Patrick’s Day (March 17) for the second.

The IBR vaccination would then fit around those dates, bearing in mind that farmers should try to keep a two-week window between vaccinations.

Outside of those three conditions, salmonella is another issue farmers should be mindful of, even if it’s generally not something they tend to think about this time of year. However, Donal noted that it is becoming more common, and vaccinating against it shouldn’t be neglected.

Host farmer John Gill said that, as part of his breeding preparations, he gave his cows copper boluses. Donal reiterated the importance of this, saying that copper deficiency in cows can be a significant issue in certain parts of the country.

Nutrition and heat detection

On the more broader issue of nutrition, Donal said that it can be a challenge to ensure the right diet that will maintain energy and good BCS as cows go out on grass.

For this reason, according to the vet, OAD milking can be a benefit, as the cow is getting energy from her diet but is using less of it. This improves cycling and BCS.

Optimal nutrition and energy use for the cow, Donal said, will also have other positive knock-on effects, including cows getting over lameness quicker, and ultimately reducing mastitis across the whole lactation.

He advised farmers to set up nutritional plans for their cows, while also keeping an eye on issues that might arise with the individual cow.

Nutrition is one of the big drivers of fertility on Irish dairy farms. The other is good heat detection.

John uses the MSD SenseHub collars on his cows, which has removed much of the workload of heat detection, while Donal said that the collars are a real asset for farmers.

One of the final key points that Donal touched on was bulls – farmers who use them should be ensuring now that they are fit and healthy rather than waiting until they may be needed.

Farmers should also consider getting their bull’s semen tested, and as well as that, treat the bull the same as cows in terms of vaccination.

Several other very important topics were covered in last night’s conversation. To look back on everything that was said, click here.

March Animal Health Series

There is still much more to come from the March Animal Health Series.

The series will continue with the next instalment on Tuesday, March 21, with a discussion on tackling pneumonia in calves.