Youngstock are the foundation of any herd. Management of calves is crucial in order to give them the best start. Identifying youngstock disease symptoms and how best to prevent recurrence is critical. Here we give you some youngstock management and disease advice.

The use of faecal worm egg counts to reduce worm resistance.

With summer nearly here and the weather warming up, it is important to worm your fat lambs effectively. If you have already wormed your lambs, are you sure your wormer has worked effectively? With increasing resistance to wormers reported across the industry, Steph is here to tell […]

2019-06-14T11:11:13+00:00June 14th, 2019|Sheep, Youngstock|

How can carcase trait Estimated Breeding Values help commercial beef farmers boost profits?

A recent project, funded by AHDB and Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales, has developed new Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs). These are linked to the traits commercial farmers get paid for, such as carcase quality and speed of finishing. The new carcase trait EBVs are:

2019-04-04T14:37:13+00:00April 4th, 2019|Beef, Youngstock|

Calf Growth Weights – the proof is in the pudding!

One of the rewarding parts of regular weigh banding is producing the growth reports. Allowing Vets and VetTechs to look at how individuals have performed and if small changes to their calf rearing system have made either a positive or negative impact on the daily live weight gain (DLWG) of their calves. Emily from our Lancs VetTech team shows us some successes!

We all want to have as high DLWG as possible for our calves and will try all sorts in order to achieve this. But most of the time it is the smallest of things that get forgotten that make the world of difference.

This year (2018) has seen big changes with the race to the top of the benchmarking graph here in Lancs. So I thought I’d share a few changes with the results that have been made or noticed across farms up here…

Introduction of a calf routine 

(Graph 1 – Farm A)

This has been a bit of a trial up in Lancs which we started at the end of August, where a vet and a VetTech visit a farm to look into the calf rearing facilities. From housing to colostrum management, we go through all your system step by step to see if there are any small points to alter. Following on, the VetTech makes routine visits to see how the changes are going or if there are any new steps that could be added in. On this particular farm (A), small changes such as keeping unvaccinated bulls separate to vaccinated heifers, having an individual feeding bucket per calf and bedding up calves more frequently has made an unbelievable difference in DLWG – increasing from 0.6kg/day to well over 0.8kg/day. A real success story!  

Calf Growth Example 1
Graph 1: Average DLWG (Kg) over the last 12 months

Introduction of a calf rearer

Having a staff member who is solely responsible for rearing calves can be a big cost to a business but the benefits are proven to outweigh the costs. Farm B (Graph 1) introduced a sole calf rearer at the beginning of the year about April time. Which instantly made a massive difference to the DLWG; not only on paper but the calf shed is a much more pleasant environment to be in for both the calves and employees. The calf rearer ensures that all the calves are given the correct quantity of colostrum and attention to detail is second to none!

Farm C (Graph 2) also introduced a calf rearer at the beginning of the year about March time. With this farm buying in calves at five days old they seemed to have a lot of disease issues spreading through the calf shed. The rearer concentrated on picking up and treating disease as soon as possible, along with putting sick calves in isolation from the rest of the group.

All the calves that had been treated were written down in the diary, allowing other staff to be aware of the issues. This has also enabled them to look back at any of the poorer DLWG to see if they were the individuals that had been sick in the past. The increase in average DLWG from 2017 to 2018 has proved that an individual calf rearer is worth the expense!

If you would like to know where you are on the benchmarking graph or would like to know your farms average DLGW get in touch with your VetTech Team!

VT Graph 2
Graph 2: Average DLWG (Kg) over the last four years
2019-03-04T15:43:39+00:00February 8th, 2019|Dairy, Youngstock|

Colostrum Measurement – VetTech Tails

Providing the best start in life for your calves starts with colostrum, with 35% of calves failing to suckle sufficient amounts of colostrum when left to their own devices. Steph Cowgill from our Lancashire VetTech team gives us some management tips to make sure your calves receive the good stuff…

Ideally colostrum should be harvested cleanly, and 10-12% of the calf’s body weight should be fed in colostrum within the first two hours of calving for the calf to absorb sufficient amounts of antibodies. All colostrum harvested should be tested for quality using a refractometer or colostrometer and anything measuring over 22% (50mg/ml immunoglobulin) on the scale should be fed and stored – it’s always good to date and label the colostrum! Discard colostrum that comes under 22% on the immunoglobulin scale.

We run a Colostrum Check report that helps identify the level of passive transfer your calves are receiving from colostrum. Serum protein levels are assessed from calves 1 – 7 days old and from this we can identify if they have absorbed sufficient antibody levels from the colostrum. The higher the level of protein, the higher the quality of colostrum. We do this as a monthly report, and we can utilise this as VetTechs to help introduce a colostrum protocol on farm and give feedback on colostrum management, leading to healthier and thriving calves.

For more information on the Colostrum Check report, please contact us.

Measure that Colostrum
2018-11-13T11:46:51+00:00November 13th, 2018|Youngstock|

Mycoplasma In Calves

You may have heard the term Mycoplasma associated with multiple different problems in both adult cattle and calves. Although it is not a ‘new’ problem, it is a complicated bug and we are still learning exactly how and when it causes disease. Sarah gives us more information…

Mycoplasmas are a group of very small bacteria and in the UK Mycoplasma Bovis is the most common type associated with disease in cattle. The signs seen depend on which part of the body it affects and can include mastitis, joint infections, pneumonia and inner ear disease.

Respiratory disease is one of the most common problems we see in calves infected with Mycoplasma. Signs can vary and the response to treatment is often poor if not caught early. Below I have described a recent outbreak of Mycoplasma in calves seen on a farm and how we are managing the disease in this herd.

Outbreak in calves on farm

Earlier in the year I was asked to examine a group of very sick calves which were not eating. These calves had high temperatures, snotty noses and crusty eyes. A high proportion also had an ear droop on one side with crusty discharge coming from the ear canal.

A more unusual symptom seen was swelling over the eyes and forehead in the worst affected.
The outbreak was extremely widespread with nearly all pre-weaned calves affected regardless of age.

There are several samples which can be taken to determine the cause of respiratory disease. In this case we opted to perform a post-mortem on one of the worst affected animals as we thought this would be the most likely way to get an answer quickly. The findings were dramatic and really explained why the calves were appearing so sick.

The image above shows the nasal passages full of pus and infected material; this was the same for the inner ear. The lungs themselves showed no signs of disease. The lab confirmed the presence of Mycoplasma and suggested that the swelling seen on the foreheads was the result of the immune glands being so enlarged they were blocking fluid drainage from the head.


Mycoplasma infection will not respond to treatment with some antibiotics so during the outbreak we ensured any suspect cases were treated promptly with an anti-inflammatory and an appropriate antibiotic. In-contact calves were checked regularly and temperatures taken to pick up early signs of disease.

Outbreaks of this disease can be associated with poor immunity so the farmer worked to ensure colostrum transfer was adequate. We screened the group for BVD as this can also make animals more susceptible to disease.
Spread of infection between the calves can be through direct contact and via feeding equipment. We recommended disinfecting feeding buckets after each feed and numbering them so that the same bucket could be returned to the same calf.

As introduction of infection was thought to have come from the adult herd, we recommended limiting all contact between cows and calves and removing calves from the dam as soon as possible after calving. 

Although calves were fed milk replacer from two days of age, it was possible that infection was coming through colostrum. Mycoplasma can be readily destroyed in colostrum through pasteurisation so investing in a pasteuriser was recommended. For this size farm (~180 cows) and on an all year round calving pattern the Store and Thaw machine is probably the most affordable option which can pasteurise individual bags of colostrum as well as defrosting frozen colostrum very quickly. 

Although there are no commercial vaccines available for Mycoplasma, a vaccine can be produced using the specific strain identified on your farm. For now, we are prioritising preventing introduction through good biosecurity and limiting the routes of transmission from the adult cows to the calves, however if we continue to see outbreaks of disease, vaccination will be reconsidered.

Mycoplasma in Calves
Discharge seen coming out of the ear.
Mycoplasma in Calves
Crusting around the nose and swelling above the eyelids.
Mycoplasma in Calves
Nasal passages full of pus and infected material.
2019-03-04T15:46:53+00:00November 13th, 2018|Youngstock|

Case of the Month

“He Who Dares Wins”

One Friday in May I was covering some calls up in the Lancs practice. After sorting out a prolapsed ewe at our Clitheroe practice, I got a call to see a heifer with a suspected fractured lower forelimb. It didn’t sound the best call to go to […]

2019-03-04T15:47:07+00:00October 4th, 2018|Youngstock|

Tackling “Crypto”

What is Cryptosporidiosis?

Cryptosporidiosis or ‘Crypto’ is a disease that affects many of our cattle farms. Cryptosporidia are protozoal parasites, so a little bit like coccidiosis or in humans amoebic dysentery (infection of the gut). However, Crypto is not specific to calves and can affect other mammals and humans too (more […]

2018-09-13T10:34:19+00:00September 13th, 2018|Youngstock|
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