All posts by Ffion Parry

CCF Crymych on Farm

Animal Health Best Practice showcased in Pembrokeshire

At the end of May the Crymych Branch of Clynderwen and Cardiganshire Farmers held an Animal Health best practice day at Maes y Felin Farm near Whitland hosted by the Williams family. There was an excellent turnout from both local farms and as well as some from further afield.crymych

At the start of the day Paul Williams spoke about the sheep system he has at the farm. The flock at Maes y Felin consists of just over 1200 mainly Welsh Halfbred ewes lambing to Texel and Hampshire rams. The target for the first batch of lambs is to reach 18kg deadweight at 12 weeks solely off milk and grass, whilst the remainder are finished without any form of supplement within 24 weeks of age with them all grading within the R3L bracket.

Challenges which affect production includes mineral deficiencies and resistant worms and he has been working with his vet and Sally Harmer fromsally CCF to overcome these issues.

The first session was a dosing and pour on demonstration by Sean Finn from Elanco Animal Health. Focus was on Gun calibration and maintenance, dosing to the correct weight as well as correct nozzle selection and application technique for fly pour on’s. He pointed out that even if the best product is being used it is wasted if not given or applied correctly.

There was a quiz during the lunch break and something that was apparent from the results was the wide variety of weights guessed for the 4 different lambs marked. This reinforced the need tocustomers weigh animals before dosing as some would have been under dosed by as much as 25% if those guessed weights had been used. This has the potential to speed up the onset of resistance on any farm dramatically.

In the afternoon there was a presentation and a practical demonstration by Ieuan Davies of Agrimin on the new Smartrace Lamb Bolus. He spoke about the importance and the production benefits of having the correct minerals available to growing lambs. A number of lambs had been blood tested prior to the day and were showing a lack of essential minerals.

Poor mineral profiles can adversely affect growth rates in lambs so it is important to correct this. Of course if there are problems in lambs it is likely that the whole flock on a farm will have problems such as poor conception rates at tupping. Using a bolus like thecustomers 2 Agrimin Smartrace range is an easy way to ensure the balance is maintained.

However whilst a trace element deficiency is often blamed for poor production, rations short of energy or the presence of gut parasites or liver fluke, are often more common causes of ill-thrift. The classic clinical signs associated with trace element deficiencies can be slow to develop. Leading up to this, the only signs may be lighter weights or poorer lambs at slaughter.

Therefore a deficiency state should always be confirmed by independent testing and advice before supplementing stock with extra trace elements.

ccf sheep

Fly Control in the Spring and Early Summer

Flies in both cattle and sheep can as a minimum, cause significant production losses but if left unchecked can lead to death in the most severe cases. The reality is that a lot of the issues can be avoided if there is a suitable management protocol in place.

Sheep

Blowflies are the most widespread ectoparasite affecting sheep in the UK, with surveys showing that every year 80% of flocks will have one or more cases of strike. If not properly controlled, this will result in serious welfare problems and reduced profitability in up to 500,000 sheep.

As I write this in mid-April we have already seen the first case of fly strike in Pembrokeshire. We normally expect to see blowfly strike between May and September but with changing weather patterns, lowland flocks are at risk from March through to December. With increasing flock sizes and the need to rationalise labour use to improve profitability, flocks must have a plan that will provide protection during the risk period and fit with the need to control other parasites.

 

Like most suppliers CCF stock a number of products that treat and protect against fly strike. Some have activity against other ectoparasites as well. They have different modes of action and consequently differing lengths of protection so advice is essential to ensure you use the best product for your flock. The products are all different so always read the manufacturer’s instructions on dose rate, storage and withdrawal periods. Check application equipment is working properly and is calibrated. Replenish dips according to instructions and follow all safety guidelines.

 

Good management and planning can help to reduce the risk of strike occurring. Most strikes (over 70%) occur around the breech or tail where there is faecal and/or urine soiling as these are very attractive to the flies. Wet weather can lead to strike on the backs of unshorn ewes and lambs and footrot can lead to strike in the feet.

Tips that can reduce strike issues:

  • Dag to reduce soiling and/or remove dirty wool around the breech
  • Reduce the incidence of soiling by avoiding nutritional upsets causing scouring and have a sound worm control strategy
  • Tail dock the sheep
  • Avoid breeding from sheep that are habitually struck and/or tend to soil themselves due to their conformation
  • Try to keep sheep away from sheltered fields in the high risk periods
  • Reduce the incidence of footrot

 

Cattle

Cattle also have problems with flies although the issue is more to do with production losses as opposed to chronic disease although flies do spread summer mastitis and eye disease.

All types of flies breed in dung and organic material and the development time from egg to adult can be as little as eight days in summer, rapidly producing large populations. Under typical UK climatic conditions, up to 15 generations of flies can be produced in just one year. This means that the peak fly populations are usually in July and August. However, with unpredictable weather patterns, fly problems can start in April and last into October.

By controlling the environment in which flies breed, fly populations on farm may be reduced. Reducing fly breeding sites like muckheaps as well as keeping the yards clean can help. Think about keeping cattle away from sheltered fields in the summer period especially if there is water present.

Chemical methods can also play a valuable role in controlling the fly population by breaking the fly life cycle. As adult flies are only 20% of the total fly population, with immature eggs accounting for 80%, it is advisable to use a larvacide and adulticide concurrently. Larvacides will kill the larvae (maggots) and stop larvae from continuing their development into flies. Adulticides are ‘knock down’ products that kill flies on application which will continue to kill flies after application.

For on animal control of flies, the choices are either insecticide-impregnated ear tags or Pour-on products which are normally synthetic pyrethroid insecticides.

Animal health suppliers can help with product selection but a top tip is to tackle the problem early. Not wait until the flies become a problem.

Fluke issues in the Spring and Summer

Sheep

As Animal Health Suppliers we are often asked for fluke and wormer drenches for the ewes at this time of year. In reality this is a waste of money as most ewes will not be affected by worms and given the concerns with worm resistance currently in Wales is certainly the wrong thing to do in most cases.

However there will often be a benefit in giving the ewes a flukicide in the Spring in order to prevent some of the pasture contamination that can lead to issues later on in the year. Because the fluke will tend to be older it is an opportunity to use an adulticide which is a different type of flukicide. This should help reduce the dependence on the all-stage flukicides and therefore slow the development of fluke resistance.

Young lambs will not have fluke but potentially they can start picking up fluke when they start to graze. This can lead to condemned livers in the autumn but importantly it will also affect growth rates. However the withdrawal periods with fluckicides can be a problem so on some farms there is merit in using an all stage flukicide early in the summer, well before the lambs go for slaughter. Ask for advice on the best product to use.

Cattle

Abattoirs monitor liver condemnations to fluke and some provide this information to their farmers. Several CCF customers have reported issues over the winter period especially if the animals have not been treated correctly at housing.

Any fluke control programme is aided by preventing cattle grazing the snail habitat or by removal of the snail habitat (through drainage) where possible. However neither of these options may be practical so animals may have to be treated in order to prevent problems such as poor growth rates and lower milk yields.

Advice for farmers on flukicide usage from your animal health advisor will take account of the type and age of cattle, previous farm history, results of abattoir returns, if they are available, and possibly faecal monitoring.

A number of products are available for treating fluke in cattle so they should be used as part of a strategic dosing regime, which means treating the stock in such a way as to limit fluke egg output at critical times of the year, such as spring and early summer. This will help break the fluke life cycle, potentially reducing problems later in the year.

New Store at Machynlleth

CCF are delighted to have been able to secure a new store so close to our old site in Machynlleth which will help us ensure we can offer an improved service to our valued member customers in that area. The new store at Treowain Inustrial Estate has excellent access and much more storage space for the requirements of the local farmers.

Our Manager Dai Foulkes, along with Arwel Evans, have both worked extremely hard in difficult conditions from the old site for many years to ensure customers received a good service, but the issues with lack of space and difficult access were proving more difficult as the years went by.

As a farmer-owned business, we work for our farmer members as shareholders and as customers, so the purchase of this site had to be a good investment for the members and a suitable location & size, which we believe it is.

The site is very focused on the needs of the farmer members but will also carry a small range of country products, with a more extensive range available at our Country Store in Aberystwyth.

Machynlleth Map

Worming Sheep in the Spring

Ewes

The first question that needs asking is – do the ewes really need worming?

In reality a lot of the ewes won’t need a dose in April. Some may have been treated at lambing but most ewes will have good worm immunity by now, so it is a waste of money treating them. Treating can also add to the possibility of worm resistance developing quicker.

Fluke is very different though. Ewes do not get immunity to liver fluke so it is possible that they may need a dose should the farm or weather conditions are favourable for fluke in the late winter/ spring period. Try to avoid using combination fluke wormers though because as previously stated you could be worming unnecessarily.

 

Lambs

Lambs will face different challenges. They have no immunity when born so will pick up worms as soon as they graze should worm larvae be present on the pasture. Worms are likely to be present if the weather conditions are suitable (warm and wet is ideal) and the pasture has been previously grazed by other sheep. If it is a fresh re-seed or the weather is dry, hot or cold then there will be very few larvae present.

Nematodirus is the first major challenge in the Spring normally and as its cycle is a little different to other worms it is certainly one to watch for. It is very much all or nothing and the larvae population on the pasture is very much dictated by the weather. A cold spell followed by mild, wet weather is ideal for a mass hatch. The lambs consume vast numbers of the larvae in a very short space of time and as this is what causes the damage the timing of treatment (a white drench is normally fine) is critical to avoid severe losses. SCOPS run a Nematodirus warning page on http://www.scops.org.uk/alerts-detail.php?AlertID=39 which is worth following.

Later on in the Spring there can be stomach and gut worm problems. A faecal egg count can help in keeping an eye on what’s happening and give a guide as to when to drench. In hot, dry weather you may not need to drench at all. You should ideally change drenches and not just stick to the white drenches. White drenches tend not to be as effective nowadays (this can be checked with a drench test) due to resistance issues.

As lambs will possibly be going for slaughter in the early summer it is important to take care with the withhold periods as some are longer than others.

A local animal health advisor or vet can not only help with faecal egg counting and drench checking but should be able to help put together a suitable parasite control plan for your farm as they will have knowledge of the local challenges facing your flock.