A word of warning to farmers is to keep an eye out for over conditioned cows, as over fat cows can have many health risks at this time of the year.

That is according to Tipperary based vet Michael O’Connor. Speaking to Agriland he said: “With the exceptional back end to the year cows are in great condition. The quality of fodder is also excellent. However it has to be said that some cows are over conditioned. Over conditioned cows can causes as many problems as under conditioned cows. With issues such as retained placenta and metabolic problems associated with over conditioned cows.”

He added: “Late calvers can often get overlooked at this time of the year with farmer’s minds focused on fresh calvers and calves. In some circumstances this can lead to over fat cows.”

O’Connor commented: “What a difference a year makes. Very different back end to the year compared to previous years. Farmers are reporting a good start to the year in terms of calving. Animals really went into the shed in good condition. Animals were able to graze grass for an extended period. Farmers also made excellent quality fodder”

He noted: “We are seeing no major difficulties so far this spring. There are always some routine problems at calving.”

On BVD O’Connor advised: “Level of PI definitely down. It is very important the test is completed as soon as possible after the calf is born. Don’t wait until the end of the season to send of a big batch together. The key is to get the sample in early as possible so farmers are able to identify Pi’s quickly.”

O’Connor stressed that being organised is key to success at this time of the year. He advised farmers to “Monitor your cows regularly. Give the animal plenty of time. Only then intervene if the cow still is in trouble. If there continues to be problems call the vet in time.”

He highlighted hygiene is of the up-most importance. He said: “The most critical unit in any farm is he calving pen. It is the first point of contact for every calf that is born.”

O’Connor cited: “Group pens are very good for monitoring a larger number of cows at the one time. A lot of farmers would move the cows to an individual pen on the point of calving.”

He also doesn’t think expansion is putting pressure on dairy units. He said: “For most fellas expansion has been within reason. It has been done in the correct way to. New facilities that have been built are really of a top class standard.”

“Most of the big dairy operators are selling there bull calves at an early age. Overcrowding is a not a big issue on farms in my area.”

O’Connor stated: “It is vitally important that calves are born into a good healthy and clean environment.”

“Disinfection of the navel is very important. I would advise to disinfect with iodine two and three times a day when the calf is born.”

He added: “Calves are being taken away from their mothers at a much earlier stage now. So as to limit the chances of a Johne’s disease infection crossing between mother and daughter.”

O’Connor stressed: “Colostrum management is the cornerstone of calf health management. He commented that “Colostrum is the best and cheapest antibiotic a farmer will buy. Done correctly it will have a huge impact.”

In terms of calf management he said: “I would advise farmers to feed a good quality calf starter ration from an early age. This helps with the development of the rumen and will lead to stronger and healthier calves down the road.”

O’Connor concluded by saying: “This time of the year I would advise farmers to take the advice and information that is there locally, be it from vets or Teagasc.”

Michael O’Connor works at O’Connor Julian Vets, Cashel, Co. Tipperary. O’Connor Julian Vets are part of XLVets. XLVets is a group of progressive practices who are working together to achieve a better future for agriculture and veterinary in Ireland. For further information go to www.xlvets.ie