Lead poisoning: prevention is key

Agridirect.ie discusses the dangers of lead poisoning on the farm, and outlines some measures you can take to prevent your animals from ingesting this common toxin.

More common than you might think

Lead is the most common cause of poisoning in livestock. Accidental ingestion of lead occurs among cattle and sheep far more frequently than you might think. Because lead ingestion will kill an animal quickly, lead poisoning often goes unrecognised. A farmer may find a previously healthy animal dead in a field and attribute the sudden death to a heart attack or some deadly disease. Farmland that lies near heavily industrialised areas is particularly at risk.

Failure to diagnose lead poisoning as the cause of death can have disastrous consequences, as the poison is on your land and more animals are likely to succumb to it if you do not take action.

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Slow killer: Johne’s Disease and how to prevent it

Agridirect.ie discusses the menace of Johne’s disease and outlines some measure that farmers should take to prevent the spread of this insidious infection.

Johne’s disease: what is it?

Johne’s disease is one of the most frustrating and insidious diseases that any farmer will have to deal with. Many other infectious diseases that target the digestive system, such as winter dysentery and stomach worms, are a nuisance that cause damage to a cow’s digestive health; but these are relatively unlikely to kill the animal. In stark contrast, once contracted Johne’s disease will eventually cause death in most cases.

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Neosporosis – why we should keep dogs away from the cattle shed

As cattle move indoors at this time of year, Agridirect.ie discusses the risk of neosporosis and reminds farmers to keep their dogs away from the feeding passage.

Fodder is, of course, a matter of much concern to farmers at this time of year. We worry about how much of it we have, its quality, and whether there are any affordable alternatives to the standard mix of silage and concentrates. These are, of course, important and legitimate topics and I will return to them at a later date. For now, though, I want to discuss an issue that receives far too little attention in the farming community. This is the danger that pregnant cattle will contract neosporosis from fodder during the housing season.

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Weanlings: how can we keep them healthy?

Agridirect.ie discusses the range of diseases that strike weanlings and asks whether these can be prevented.

A familiar situation

Here is a situation that, in my experience, happens all too often in the suckler herd. You have a strapping bull calf that looks a great prospect. But the second you wean him, he starts to lose ground. Come selling time, he is a scrawny-looking specimen, barely recognisable from the calf you reared and had such high hopes for. You end up barely making a profit on him, after feed costs and your own time are taken into the equation.

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Product Watch: the New Solantel Pour-On for Cattle

Fluke: impossible to avoid?

The right dose to use and when to use it. These are problems that trouble all sheep and cattle farmers at this time of year. Sheep, in particular, are so vulnerable to fluke that winter ewe deaths from fluke-related liver damage is commonly attested on Irish farms. It is almost impossible to prevent animals from contracting the parasite, especially if – like me – you have wet ground and have no option but to graze it. The lifecycle of this scourge of sheep farmers is very well understood and has been the subject of numerous studies. In short, fluke parasites that have been living on mud snails during the summer months migrate onto the long grass in early autumn, and from here pass into grazing livestock.

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Forecast: Wet With a Strong Chance of Fluke

As the weather gets wetter, Agridirect.ie discusses the increased danger of fluke in sheep and offers some advice to farmers on the best treatments available on the market.

A Grim Forecast

The forecast for the foreseeable makes for grim reading. Of the seven days ahead, only one – Friday – is likely to bring as much as a ray sunshine. The rest of the week is set to be overcast, showery or downright torrential. For sheep farmers, this should be a concern. While the dip in temperature over the last couple of weeks has banished the threat of the blowfly, internal parasites remain a major problem. By now, the fluke parasite will have left the mud snail that hosts it during the summer months and migrated onto grass. Wet grassland, especially, will be full of fluke. If you can, you should keep animals off your wettest fields at this time of year, no matter how lush the grass.

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Livestock pneumonia: knowing the early signs is key

Agridirect.ie discusses the threat of pneumonia in livestock during the winter months, and outlines the early symptoms to watch out for.

Winter chill

Winter is not far off now. Temperatures plummeted over the last couple of weeks, and some recent nights have had a distinctly wintry feel. Over the next month or so, we can expect conditions to deteriorate further, with increased rainfall and colder air sweeping across the country. On the farm, this seasonal change brings with it several new threats. One of these is the risk of pneumonia in livestock. Farmers should be particularly mindful of this danger, as it can kill quickly and leaves few outward signs for a post-mortem.

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Winter Menace: Managing Lungworm This Housing Season

Agridirect.ie discusses the threat of lungworm in cattle this winter, and outlines the benefits of a pre-housing dose.

Winter Housing Plan

Autumn is well underway at this stage. As temperatures start to dip, our thoughts turn inevitably to preparation for winter housing. Putting together a good housing plan takes time, and that’s why it is best to start preparing it long before the last paddocks are grazed bare. Farmers can agree to disagree on the finer details of a housing plan, but some things are essential.

Getting your animal grouping selection right, for example, is a major point of concern. You don’t want to pair bigger and smaller animals together or the smaller ones will struggle to get their share at the feeding passage. We also need to remember that the dietary change from grass to hay or silage can be a severe shock to the system, particularly for younger animals. Therefore, choosing dietary supplements will always be an essential part of any good housing plan.

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Silent Killer: Grass Tetany and How to Prevent It

Agridirect.ie discusses the danger of grass tetany in the weeks running up to housing, and offers some advice on the best way to prevent and treat it.

Aftergrass – a hotbed for tetany

As the grazing season draws to a close, suckler farmers should keep a closer-than-usual eye on their stock. Animals will be housed in the next few weeks, but until then the risk of grass tetany is very high. Tetany is one of the biggest cattle killers on Irish suckler farms, and it usually occurs on heavy, low-fibre paddocks. If you put animals out on aftergrass in the last few weeks, you should be particularly vigilant. Cows recently weaned of their calves are most at risk of succumbing to tetany.  

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Managing Foot Rot and Scald in Sheep

Agridirect.ie discusses foot rot and scald in sheep, and outlines some of the steps farmers can take to mitigate the problem.

Foot ailments in sheep

It is a simple fact that if you keep sheep, you will have to deal with lameness on an annual basis. Sheep, and particularly some of the terminal breeds, are notoriously prone to debilitating hoof ailments. Foremost among these are scald and foot rot. Both tend to proliferate in wet, warm conditions so sheep farmers should be vigilant at the moment. While I haven’t encountered any hoof issues on our farm this autumn, I have heard several farmers complaining of a major outbreak of either scald or foot rot.

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