Killer in the feedlot: Bovine Respiratory Disease and how to prevent it discusses Bovine Respiratory Disease, one of the leading causes of revenue loss on Irish feedlots.

Major revenue loss

Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD), often referred to as Bovine Pneumonia, is among the most devastating conditions that farmers may have to deal with over the winter months. With the exception of very young calves, Bovine Respitatory Disease can strike cattle of all ages.

However, like many other conditions linked to the spread of infectious disease, it is most often identified among housed cattle and is prevalent in herds of cattle imported from diverse locations. It is difficult to overestimate the economic cost of BRD on Irish farms. Respiratory diseases in cattle are highly infectious, have exceptionally high mortality rates (up to 25%) and are among the foremost reasons for carcass rejection at slaughter.

What causes BRD?

Generally, BRD is caused by uncontrolled viruses and bacteria in the herd. Among the most lethal of these are Mannheimia haemolytica and Pasteurella multocida, though other agents such as RSV, PI3, BoHV-1 (IBR), BVD and Bovine coronavirus are also considered significant causes of disease.

It is generally recognized that cattle housed in poor conditions are more likely to develop BRD, and this is why farmers are always encouraged to ensure hygienic and well ventilated housing conditions.

Signs and symptoms

Cattle suffering from Bovine Respiratory Disease exhibit difficulty breathing, and breathe much faster than a healthy animal. An infected cow will have little appetite, usually has a cough and invariably shows a mucus drip from the nostrils. While these are the most common symptoms, raw mucous membranes, conjunctivitis and low milk yield in lactating cows are also prominent features. If you notice any of these signs in your herd, you should contact your vet immediately.

Nasal discharge is a common symptom of BRD


Diagnosis of BRD usually involves some for of veterinary examination. In many instances, BRD is only diagnosed via post-mortem examination. However, the disease may also be identified by clinical examination and laboratory testing. Farmers should be as proactive as possible in trying to diagnose the disease early, and your veterinarian will advise as to the best diagnostic methods.  

Continue reading “Killer in the feedlot: Bovine Respiratory Disease and how to prevent it”

Lead poisoning: prevention is key 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.

Continue reading “Lead poisoning: prevention is key”

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

Continue reading “Slow killer: Johne’s Disease and how to prevent it”

Homegrown Alternatives to Feed Concentrates discusses some of the best homegrown alternatives to feed concentrate for livestock during the housing season.

Transitioning from feed concentrate

When it comes to winter feed for cattle, most of us are content with the old reliable strategy: a combination of good quality silage plus a feed concentrate tailored to our animals’ age, size, or breed. However, with concentrate prices on the rise, more and more farmers are looking for cheaper, home-grown alternatives. Over the last year or two, I have spoken to several farmers who have either started to supplement feed concentrate with various root vegetables and beans, or have replaced it completely with a combination of these.

Continue reading “Homegrown Alternatives to Feed Concentrates”

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

As cattle move indoors at this time of year, 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.

Continue reading “Neosporosis – why we should keep dogs away from the cattle shed”

Good Hospitality: Making Cows Comfortable This Housing Season discusses “cow comfort”, outlining some ways that farmers can help to make sure their cows are comfortable and happy this housing season.

What is cow comfort?

In the dairy sector, there has been a great push in recent times to promote the idea of “cow comfort”. At its core, cow comfort aims to minimise an animal’s stress and thereby increase productivity. But it is an animal welfare issue as much as it is a matter of farm profitability.

Given that many suckler herds will be moving indoors over the next few weeks, it seems to me that the suckler farmer should also give some thought to cow comfort. Cattle often lose ground when they are housed, and this is not always attributable to the spread of infectious diseases; or, if it is, we should consider the possibility that diseases are spreading through the herd due to issues with our housing plan. If there is little fresh air circulating in the shed, or if cattle are confined to small and overcrowded pens, the risk of typical winter illnesses, and particularly respiratory illnesses, increases tenfold. Cow comfort indeed.

Continue reading “Good Hospitality: Making Cows Comfortable This Housing Season”

Yes, we need more clover. Here’s why! outlines the primary benefits of promoting white clover on our land.

A member of the bean family, white clover (trifolium repens) is native to Europe and Central Asia. Traditionally, it has thrived in the temperate oceanic climate of Britain and Ireland, providing excellent grazing for the ruminants of these islands. After World War II, however, market forces began to target the three-leaved plant. As petrochemical herbicides developed during the war era hit the shelves, the chemical industry started to depict white clover as an unsightly weed that its products could deal with. Predictably, the global clover population took a serious nosedive.

Continue reading “Yes, we need more clover. Here’s why!”

Mineral deficiency in calves – know the right bolus

Calf weaning 001Agridirect offers some advice on the best mineral boluses for calves at weaning time.

Weaning calves – what’s all the doom and gloom about?

Some calves start to fail the moment they come off mother’s milk. You put them out on pasture and you notice the change almost immediately. Sometimes weight loss comes with the onset of infectious diseases that set the animal back even further. All too often, calves don’t make it past this stage at all.

We’ve all had to deal with the unexpected loss of weanling calves, time and time again.

And although it is hard not to despair of weak weanlings that seem prone to just about every ailment imaginable, we should also recognize that disastrous outcomes have preventable causes. The sudden removal of milk from a calf’s diet places enormous stress on its young body. Unless grass quality is of an extremely high quality, chances are that your weanlings are deficient in some crucial minerals. Insufficient copper in a calf’s diet, for example, is one of the leading causes of ill-thrift in calves on Irish farms. A lack of cobalt, on the other hand, can lead to a loss of appetite and a range of health complications. Continue reading “Mineral deficiency in calves – know the right bolus”

Do you know your grass seed? We look at Teagasc’s improved Pasture Profit Index

Grass Reseeding 002

Agridirect discusses the benefits of grass reseeding and Teagasc’s improved Pasture Profit Index for seed varieties.

Well folks, it’s time to talk about grass seed. Now I can already anticipate loud scoffing from some small farmers, who think that reseeding is the luxury of the big dairy man.

But that’s no longer the case. Numerous studies have documented the benefits of reseeding for dairy and beef production. As previous authors of this blog have pointed out, intelligent reseeding can have enormous long-term economic benefits for farmers. In essence, improved sward quality helps to improve output and save costs.

That said, it is important to know what you want from your reseeding. You need to consider whether you are reseeding for silage production or for pasture, as this will have a bearing on what grass seed mix you decide to go with in the end. Continue reading “Do you know your grass seed? We look at Teagasc’s improved Pasture Profit Index”

Digital dermatitis – do you know your treatments?

Digital Dermatitis 001Hello farmers! This week at the Agridirect Animal Medicines Corner, our thoughts turn to digital dermatitis. We ask what it is, how it spreads and how to recognize it. We will also make some suggestions on the best ways to treat it!

What is digital dermatitis?

Digital dermatitis (DD) is a bacterial disease of the hoof first discovered in 1974. Highly infectious and hard to cure, it causes lameness in cattle and is a scourge for dairy farmers in particular. It is always distressing to see an animal in pain, and when DD starts to spread through the herd, farmers often despair of getting rid of it. Continue reading “Digital dermatitis – do you know your treatments?”