As the days shorten, thoughts turn to cattle housing although growing numbers are successfully prolonging the grazing season maximising it and incorporating alternative forage crops such as fodder beet and kale etc. The majority utilising electric fence strip grazing providing a cost effective and flexible solution. This can also be a period when creep feeding or grazing is introduced to suckled calves whose mothers may by now, only provide 50% or less of their nutritional requirements (Source; Stewart, UGA Extension). Creep feeding concentrate supplements gets animals ready for their housed diet, but creep grazing also provides access to cost-effective fresh forage still achieving Daily Liveweight Gain (DLWG) targets. One method is to build a creep gate in the fence line or at the field gate. Another is to use one strand of electric wire placed high enough to allow calves to run under and graze keeping cows out.
Housing cattle for many though is inevitable, desirable even if weaning suckler calves for example or to achieve high DLWG when growing and finishing cattle with higher inputs.
Cattle are traditionally treated for internal and external parasites as well as being vaccinated for Bovine Respiratory Diseases (BRD) upon housing. Significant benefits though, are achieved with a Pre-Housing Dose (PHD) a month or so before they go in to combat internal and external parasites. A Vaccination against BRD can also be given at the same time too.
The PHD ensures any lungworm infection particularly common at this time of year in younger stock is dealt with in a timely way. Using a persistent wormer not only kills existing internal worm burdens, but the persistent effect deals with larvae they subsequently pick up whilst still at grass, so they are still clean when housed.
Removal of stomach worms can improve younger animal’s appetites maximising the use of the last autumn grass and ensuring maximum uptake of conserved forage and concentrates when coming inside. This can be a stressful period especially for suckled calves being weaned and less stress reduces disease prevalence during this testing time.
Using a PHD also allows any damaged lungs to heal during the PHD persistent protection period pre-housing, so animals with healthier respiratory systems are less prone to BRD challenges such as pneumonia, IBR and Pasteurella.
It is suggested that the greatest challenge for housed animals is generally in the first 7 to 10 days, so vaccinating them BEFORE they go inside ensures protection already in place when most needed i.e. during the first few weeks
Vaccines stimulate an animal’s immune system to protect itself against disease. This doesn’t occur immediately after vaccination but can be 5 days to several weeks.
Persistent wormers also kill both biting and sucking lice, ensuring clean animal hides at housing improving winter welfare and performance.
Another consideration is Fasciola hepatica or Fluke estimated to cost the UK cattle industry £23 million annually (Source; NADIS). Treatment if often delayed to post-housing ensuring both mature and immature fluke are treated unless an all lifecycle stage Triclabendazole is used.
When administering anthelmintics or vaccines to cattle, either PHD or when housed, best practise should apply. This can start with knowing the weight of the animal pre-treatment and dosing to the heaviest in the batch so underdosing is avoided and resistance build-up prevented. Instructions do change and should always be read beforehand.
Pour-on topical wormers are popular and simple to administer especially in a handling race but accurate delivery by a pour-on gun in good condition is essential. Apply along the flat length of the animal’s back, from withers to the tail head. If possible, avoid treatment when the hair is wet or if rain is anticipated within two hours of treatment. Some products are waterproof and can be used on wet animals. Avoid areas of damaged skin as should areas of mud or manure.
Hook dose drenchers are popular for administering fluke drench. Correct dosage using a calibration tube first ensures treatment success. Hook dosing inserted at the side of the mouth out of sight reduces stress. Placing the nozzle over the back of the tongue ensures the entire dose is swallowed. In addition to dosing gun injuries, poor dosing technique can result in the product bypassing the rumen and entering the abomasum instead. This alters the availability of the drug, impacting on efficacy.
Injectables such as BRD vaccines should be given according to the manufacturer’s instructions at the recommended injection site. There are also intranasal delivery options rather than injections and dosage rate is very small, so an extremely accurate vaccinator is essential especially if delivering up each nostril in turn.
Always use a clean, sterile vaccinator and needle, preferably with a recognised sterilisation system such as Sterimatic™.
In 2017 six percent of English cattle carcases (88,500) contained abscesses
Choosing the injection site which avoids expensive cuts such as the rump is preferable. Needles easily blunt and can cause damage so change regularly. If the site to be injected is dirty, clean the skin and swab with an alcohol-based cleanser the change the needle or vaccinate last.
Use the correct sized needle according to animal size, age and site of injection. A larger-diameter needle (no smaller than 16-gauge) is preferred for adults with less bends or needle breaks. Calves have thinner skin, and a smaller-diameter needle (18-gauge) can be used. A needle too large causes more pain, and more chance of the product leaking out. Some thicker products are hard to force through a small needle and poorer quality vaccinators are harder to use and inaccurate.
Ensure the animal is adequately restrained before attempting the injection.
For subcutaneous injections, raise a fold of skin at the injection site recommended by the product manufacturer and inject carefully into the space created. For large doses, consider splitting the dose between two injection sites.
After the injection, briefly massage the site to improve the dispersal of the injected material (Source; Cows Cattle Parasite Control Guide).