Top tips on keeping your calves healthy at weaning

Farmers need to make a conscious effort to keep the weaning process as stress free as possible, according to Zoetis’ Vet Charles Chavasse.

The Zoetis Area Veterinary Manager said that it is really important for farmers to keep their weanlings healthy over the next couple of months.

Speaking at a recent weanling information organised by Gain Feeds, Chavasse said the first step in keeping cattle healthy is getting them through the weaning process stress free.

Stress can be a huge issue, he said, as it can lead to an increase in the number of cases of pneumonia.

We must be aware that things like dehorning and castration are incredibly stressful for animals.

Farmers need to time these processes, he said, and they should be avoided around weaning and housing as these are two of the most stressful times for young cattle.

He also said that farmers need to be aware of diet changes, as putting weanlings on high energy diets can cause acidosis and this pushes downs the weanlings ability to fight off disease.

Monitoring performance

Monitoring a weanlings performance is a really good way of telling farmers how well they are managing their weanlings, he said.

Chavasse said that any dip in performance may indicate that there is health problem within the herd.

If there is one sick animal, he said there are usually three or four animals beside the animal that have a touch of the disease and as a result they may have reduced performance.

“It is really important that we keep animals healthy, because whatever happens, if you have lighter animals that have not performed well your are not at the races at all,” he said.

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Change the dosing programme

Chavasse also said that farmers should consider changing the dosing strategy used on farm.

He advised farmers to dose calves for lung worm and stomach worm approximately four weeks prior to weaning or housing, as this will allow for a sufficient amount of time for the lungs to heal.

“The damage caused to the lungs with the larvae punching holes makes it easier for the viruses to hang on and establish an infection.

“The lungs take time to heal,” he said.

He said that farmers considering this option should use a product that persists for four-to-five weeks after treatment.

It cleans the lung worm out, the lungs will have a chance to heal and you don’t have to repeat the dose.

He also said that the treatment will kill any stomach worm and as a result, the cattle will be able to utilise grass better in the weeks coming up to housing, leading to an increase in the average daily gain.

Avoid vaccinating too late

Chavasse also said that the timing of vaccinations are important, as it can take one-to-three weeks before they start to work in the animal.

He said that farmers should aim to vaccinate their calves prior weaning or housing as it is important to have the animals vaccinated before their immune system faces the main challenge.

“Whenever we are using vaccines it is important that we get the best value from them by using them correctly.

Ideally we should have vaccinated before the risk period actually starts.

“You need to vaccinate the whole population or the whole group of animals and it is important that the vaccines are used properly,” he said.

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