Animal health and welfare
Maintaining a healthy herd and keeping infectious diseases outside the farm gate must be the first priority of all beef farmers. Ensuring the production and purchase of healthy calves and having the proper biosecurity measures in place on a farm goes a long a way to achieving this. As the saying goes, prevention is better than the cure. Preventing the introduction of disease and promoting animal health works out less expensive in the long term. It lowers the impact that disease, infection and poor health can have on future animal performance.
Farmers must have the ability to recognise common diseases of beef cattle and the knowledge of how to prevent and treat them in order to operate a successful calf-to-beef farm.
Biosecurity refers to practices used to prevent both the introduction and of the spread of diseases within a farm. Diseases can enter farms either directly through infected cattle or indirectly through contaminated equipment or footwear.
More information about biosecurity on beef farms can be found in Chapter 40 of the Teagasc Beef Manual Biosecurity.(pdf)
Habituation to a new environment (pdf) of the Teagasc Calf Rearing Manual provides details of avoiding disease introduction with bought in calves. This can also be viewed through the following video, Calf Rearing- Calf transport and procurement.
Scour and pneumonia are the two most common calf diseases. There are also a number of other pathogens and parasites (internal and external) that can pose problems for calves during rearing and during their first season at grass.
Prevention of disease in calves should be a priority in all calf rearing enterprises. This involves measures to limit the exposure of the calf to infectious organisms while also reducing its susceptibility to infection.
Section 6 of the Teagasc Calf Rearing Manual Calf Health provides information on:
- Chapter 18 Calf diagnosis and Disease Prevention(pdf)
- Chapter 19 Diarrhoea (scour)(pdf)
- Chapter 20 Pneumonia(pdf)
- Chapter 21 Other common conditions(pdf)
Chapter 41 of the Teagasc Beef Manual Diseases of young calves(pdf) covers many of the key points in protecting calf health.
Careful monitoring of the performance of calves and beef cattle can provide guidance on their health, nutrition and other aspects of dairy beef farm management. The Teagasc Calf rearing manual Chapter 24 Monitoring the Performance of Calves(pdf) provides details of targets for rearing dairy beef calves up to 15 weeks of age.
The following video, Calf rearing- Calf Health , also provides detail of the most common calf diseases and how to prevent infection.
Good breeding, calf rearing, grassland management, winter feeding, housing and biosecurity are essential to maintaining good health in beef animals throughout their lives.
Chapter 42 of the Teagasc Beef Manual Significant diseases of beef cattle (pdf) covers some of the common diseases affecting older beef cattle. This includes their causes, how to recognise them, how to prevent them and what to do if the diseases do occur on the farm.
Stomach worms and lungworm are the two main parasites of calves, and older cattle, at grass. A thorough dosing regime is required for effective managemet of worm infestation. More information on parasitic worm control in calves can be found here.
Good animal welfare is an integral part of beef farming and Irish farmers operate to a very high standard. Information on how to optimise calf welfare on dairy beef farms is detailed in Chapter 25 - Animal Welfare(pdf) of the Teagasc Calf rearing manual.
Further details of how to achieve high standards of welfare on beef farms can be found in the Department of Agriculture and Food’s Animal Welfare Guidelines for BEEF FARMERS.(pdf)
In addition, Teagasc recently released a calf welfare publication on the Care of the Calf before Transport or Sale.(pdf)
Routine management practices on a dairy beef farm include calf tagging, castration, disbudding and weaning. All of these tasks must be completed according to their relevant statutory legislation in order to promote animal health and welfare on farm.
The Teagasc Calf rearing manual Section 7 provides information on:
- Chapter 22 Tagging, Castrating and Disbudding Calves.(pdf)
- Chapter 23 Successful Weaning of Calves.(pdf)
The following video, Calf rearing- Routine management practices, covers important information on tagging, disbudding and weaning.