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Herd Health Late Summer Snippets

17 July 2017
Type Media Article

By Anthony O'Connor, Teagasc Adviser, Galway/Clare Regional Unit

As we enter late summer and head towards the backend of the year, there are certain herd health issues on beef farms that need to be considered

Bull Withdrawal: 

Once the stock bull has been withdrawn from the breeding herd, bringing the breeding season to a close, ensure from then on, the stock bull has no contact with weanling heifers or any other female breeding stock present on the farm. A strong chain should be fitted to the nose ring for safety and to keep better control of the bull. 

Herd Health Plan: 

For farmers participating in the Knowledge Transfer (KT) Programme, an important part of your Farm Improvement Plan (FIP) that has to be completed before 31st July is the herd health plan, which you will have to get your Vet to complete. This is a real opportunity for you to talk with your Vet on your farm to identify the health risks to your herd and discover how you can be more proactive in preventing a disease outbreak. Take full advantage of engaging in the process, otherwise it will have been a missed opportunity. Even for farmers not involved in the KT Programme, it can be a huge advantage to have a Herd Health Plan or Veterinary protocol in place to prevent disease outbreaks if you are buying in large numbers on dairy bred calves each year. This also applies if purchasing weanlings, store cattle or replacement heifers etc. Also, a Veterinary plan may need to be put in place if you have experienced respiratory disease outbreaks in the past when housing stock.       


Full immunity to blackleg using the Clostridial vaccines requires a two-shot programme, with a booster given four weeks after the primary shot. Avoid giving any other vaccine within 14 days of giving the blackleg vaccine. Where incidences of blackleg have occurred on a farm, a blackleg vaccination programme is a must.


Autumn-born suckler calves and spring-born bucket-reared calves will have increasing worm burdens at this stage and this will generally be borne out if you are faecal sampling. So you should consider dosing. Lungworm is that bit more unpredictable but if you hear calves coughing, including spring-born suckler calves, you need to dose. The type of product you use should be varied, but remember the Benzimidazoles(white drenches) and Levamisoles (yellow drenches) will only kill what is there on the day of dosing and do not offer the persistency of the ivermectins. Yearling cattle that were well dosed as calves may also be vulnerable to a lungworm challenge.

Summer Mastitis: 

From June onwards, dry cows are going to be susceptible to summer mastitis right through to September, which corresponds with high fly numbers. This condition is one where prevention is key. Whether you choose to use dry cow tubes, Stockholm tar or fly repellent to help reduce the risk, it is important to take some combination of preventative measures. Cows need to be herded regularly during this high risk period if you are to spot potential problems. If cows are lying, go in, get them up and walk through them. Have cows in well topped fields and avoid fields that are wet or have a lot of tree cover or have farmyard manure heaps, where fly populations are high. Keep an eye on maiden/dry heifers as well over the coming months.


The work to eradicate bovine viral diarrhea (BVD Eradication Programme) has made significant progress in reducing the number of persistently infected (PI) calves born. For those of you vaccinating against the disease, you should keep doing so.  For those not vaccinating, you need to be extra careful around biosecurity measures for stock coming onto the farm. If cows in early pregnancy (30-120 days) are protected from infection, we will further reduce the number of PI calves born next spring. Speedy removal of any known PI calves should remain a priority.

Remember, prevention is better than cure.