O’Sullivan, a well-known vet based in Trim, Co Meath, outlined a telling example of one farmer in his area.
“The farmer sold a heifer to a feedlot. Soon after arriving the heifer showed signs of pregnancy. When this was confirmed, the heifer returned again to the farmer. The calf was born sometime after by Caesarean. However the calf, which happened to be of exceptional quality, came back as BVD positive. It was not easy for the farmer to understand that the calf was going to have to be put down.
“It is one of the things that worries me at the minute is that 30 per cent of the PI calves that are identified are retained. Because it’s an absolute ‘no-brainer’ if you ask me. The farmer had previously a BVD-free herd and it is not wise to put that at risk. They’re not doing themselves any good and they not doing their neighbours any good. It is very important that we promote the removal of these animals,” he stressed.
In an in-depth presentation on best practice in relation to animal health, O’Sullivan pointed out that “if you don’t look after animal health, it will sink you”.
Noting a case of lung worm recently in his area, the vet said: “We were shocked. Lung worm on the 2nd of the December was unheard of before.”
He said the farmer, not knowing the real problem, used antibiotics to treat this animal and, he said, it would have absolutely no effect.
“Traditional we would see lung worm in mid-summer. We are finding that the lung worm or parasite season is extended due to extended grazing and warmer weather into the winter.”
Commenting on the developments within the meat factories in terms of relaying animal health findings back to farmers, O’Sullivan noted: “Farmers need to know if their cattle has a Fluke problem. Apart from losing animals it’s just going to put a stop on your production. It is very useful information coming back from the factories. Farmers need to manage the Fluke issue.
“Traditionally we use to say ‘Fence off wet areas and you’ll be fine for Fluke’. We said it wasn’t a major issue on dry land. That is not the case any more.”
“At the minute the advice is Liver Fluke is the big one. Rumen Fluke is less implicated in thrive and production. If you have one positive case I am not sure it is right to treat the entire herd for it,” the vet noted.
On pneumonia issues O’Sullivan advised: “It’s not all about vaccination. It can help. It was successful as part of the Weanling Protection Scheme a number of years ago. However, simple methods of management can also help significantly. Our big problem at the minute is where animals have been housed and it’s just too warm. It’s just unreal the temperatures presently.
“Normally we depend on a good stack effect in sheds to lift the virus out away from the animals. What farmers should look for in housing is air entering the sheds from the sides moving down over the animals and exiting through the roof.
“Managing ventilation is equally as important as vaccination.”
Good bedding, not mixing groups and not introducing feed too quickly can also prevent animal health problems,” he added.