Rearing a calf can be 3 months of hard work, and having produced a good weaned calf it’s important it has a chance to grow on well at pasture. It is important to promote fast, efficient growth by providing the young ruminant with some form of protection against lungworm and gut worms, such as Parasitic gastroenteritis (PGE).
Whilst out at pasture, the young animal will need to be able to build up its own natural immunity but still remain protected against lungworm and PGE. A naïve animal grazing contaminated grass can expect a reduction in growth rates by as much as 30%. Clinical signs include increased respiratory rate, coughing, a loss of appetite and profuse diarrhoea but in the long term heifers suffer reduced fertility and a check in growth rates can delay finishing weights in beef by up to 3 months.
Lungworm is a common parasite which infects young cattle during their first season grazing. Older Cattle can often become infected if they have not developed their own immunity as calves and later becoming exposed to the parasite as grazing adults. Disease is expected around June until September, however it can be seen earlier providing weather conditions are favourable.
Vaccinating young stock 3 weeks prior to turnout and then incorporating anthelmintic treatment is the most effective way of controlling lungworm.
All cattle outdoors will have a degree of challenge from infective larvae, older cattle will be able to cope with the challenge better than younger cattle providing they have been wormed adequately in the young stock period. However, it is vital that all young stock going out to pasture for the first time as well as cattle in their second grazing season should have a level of protection against both PGE and lungworm.
Of the PGE worms, Ostertagia ostertagi which is found in the abomasum is of significant importance and can be split into two types of disease, Type I and Type II.
Type I is more commonly seen in young calves out grazing for the first time around June-July onwards, however it can be present earlier if the climate is conducive.
Type II is more commonly seen in cattle approximately 12 months old, when arrested larvae re-emerge from the gut lining. These would be cattle which weren’t treated at housing.
One farmer who benefits from having a residual worming policy is Dan Roberts. Dan & Idris Roberts farm 400 acres near Mold, Flintshire. The farm currently runs 700 ewes, rears 200 calves and finishes 200 cattle which are sold through their local livestock market, consisting of a variety of breeds of British Blues, Limousin, Charolais & Herefords.
Previously, the Roberts’ used to source their calves from various farms as well as the market. One year they experienced a few calf losses and decided to re-think their calf rearing policy. Dan & Idris now buy the majority of their calves direct from one farm, mainly consisting of British Blues. Idris comments:
‘We are lucky with the calves we buy from this farm, as the farm has a colostrum protocol in place; this gives us the confidence and security that we are buying good quality calves which will grow into good quality beef animals. This also minimises the disease risk that we are potentially bringing onto our farm by sourcing from one farm.’
The calves arrive at Pwll Farm at 4 weeks old and the Roberts’ try to replicate the same diet that the calves are used to, to enable an efficient weaning phase. They are fed 900 grams of ‘Wynngold Stellar’ milk powder split between two feeds a day and are weaned at 8 weeks.
All young stock are turned out at the end of April and are run through a crush and are weighed before being wormed with CYDECTIN 10% LA against lungworm and PGE. Bravoxin 10 is also used to prevent clostridial disease, such as blackleg.
Dan comments : “‘It is of paramount importance sending the cattle out to graze with protection against lungworm, gut worms and blackleg, as this can potentially affect their growth rates, resulting in loss of profits’. The cost of protecting the whole herd while out at pasture compared to the cost of losing one animal is a no brainer.”
Cattle are housed in November and are allowed to settle for a few weeks before being run through the crush where they are weighed and administered a combined fluke and wormer.
Once heifers hit 520 kg and bullocks 550 kg they are then put in the finishing pen and weighed every 20 days, they are fed ad lib TMR of which consist of 8-10 kg of crimped barley, bread and good quality grass silage, usually finishing heifers at 22 months and bullocks at 24 months. Daily live weight gains are normally 1.6 – 1.7kg per day on the finishing diet, targeting heifers at around 600kg and bullocks at 680kg.
For further information and help on how Wynnstay’s animal health team or SQPs can benefit your business, please call 01691 828512.