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Ger McSweeney January Update

Neospora precautions

Neospora precautions

  • Identify cause of abortions through blood test/foetus samples
  • Remove all cleanings from positive cows
  • Mark positive cows for culling & don’t keep daughters as replacement
Weanling bull performance

Weanling bull performance

  • Weigh bulls monthly to monitor performance
  • House separately to any cycling females
  • Gradual building up ration to ad-lib is crucial
Health and safety at calving

Health and safety at calving

  • Have a minimum of 1 calving pen for every 10 cows calving
  • Having a walkway allows safe checking of cows at calving
  • Easy access to restraining facilities is key if any difficulties arise

Animal Health

Ger experienced a number of abortions in his females in 2021. On Investigation through blood and foetal samples, he discovered that Neospora caninum was the cause of them. It is particularly serious as infected animals remain infected for life. Cattle can become infected from their dams (90%) while still in the womb, or through ingesting Neospora oocysts in the faeces of an infected dog (10%), which can be through water or feed.

No vaccination for Neospora is currently licensed in the EU, and no treatment is available. In Ger’s case he will be taking the following steps to reduce the incidence in his herd:

  • Blood testing all females 4-10 weeks pre-calving to identify positive cases (completed December 2021)
  • Marking all positive females for culling
  • Removing cleanings from calved cows and disposing of them carefully so that foxes or dogs don’t eat them
  • Blood testing any purchased females for breeding where possible
  • Not retaining any females for breeding from positive cows

Further information on Neospora caninum is available at https://animalhealthireland.ie/publications/parasite-control-neospora-2021/

Ger MCS January Source: Animal Health Ireland


Ger’s 2021 born bulls weighed 466kg on average on 23rd December (average birth date 13th Feb 2021, range 300-596kg), gaining 1.38kg/day on average since their previous weighing on 26th November (range 1 -1.93 kg/day). They will be slaughtered under 16 months of age, and their target is to weigh 500kg on their birthday (13th Feb 2022) which they are set to meet. Ger plans to have these finished by May.

They were housed during the last week of October after weaning, and are currently eating 5.5kg of a 16% ration and ad-lib 69.7% DMD silage. This will be built up gradually over the next month to ad-lib 13% CP ration.

The bulls were faecal sampled in November which showed >200 eggs per gram of stomach worms and a high positive reading for rumen fluke. They were then treated with a dosing product containing oxclosanide on 27th November which treated them for adult fluke, stomach worms and rumen fluke. The faecal samples were taken again at the end of December after dosing and the results were clear, indicating that there is no evidence of anthelminthic resistance to oxyclosanide on Ger’s farm. They were vaccinated as calves with a 10 in 1 clostridial vaccination before going to grass in spring 2021, and received a vaccination on 15th of September to prevent infection for RSV, Pi3 and Mannhaemia haemolytica which can cause respiratory disease. The bulls had their backs shaved and tails clipped at housing.

Health and Safety

Health and safety is always a vitally important consideration on all Irish farms. Ger takes precautions when calving his cows by having one calving pen for every 10 cows calving on the farm.

He has safe access to check the cows, by using a walkway that also runs alongside his cattle crush. There is also a head gate and calving gate between pens so that cows can be restrained if they require assistance at calving.

The pens are easy to clean out as the gates can fold back against the wall, and are accessible with a tractor.

The calving pens have good lighting and are kept tidy to reduce any risk of trips and falls.

To prevent spread of disease, Ger has a foot bath at the entrance to the calving shed and pens.