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September News 2014

Farm Newsletter

September 2014

Unfortunately Glendale Show day brought on the dry weather so we didn’t see many of you in our tent there.  Despite my best efforts to make the ‘Name the Veterinary Tool’ quiz harder, David Lockie of Ford Westfield won the whisky for the third time in a row—is anyone going to challenge him next time? 

Stockpeople of the Month—This month a bottle of wine each goes to:

  • Duncan Turner, East Ditchburn—For spotting a bull with mastitis—whoever would have thought this was possible?
  • James Shell, Brandon—For religiously flushing out a tooth abscess in a yearling daily for a week—a smelly job but successful in the end.

Understanding the Bovine Oestrus Cycle—XLVets

The cow’s oestrus cycle can range from 18 to 24 days. The age at which a heifer reaches puberty depends on a number of factors including breed, health status, growth rate and nutritional status.

Day 0 of the oestrus cycle is considered to be the day of oestrus or ‘heat’ and ovulation. A cow will show signs typical of oestrus behaviour: standing to be mounted, restlessness and an increased amount of clear vulval mucous. This behaviour can last between 8-12 hours. Oestrus behaviour is due to oestrodiol in the blood stream which is secreted from the ovary. 

Oestrodiol also triggers the release of a hormone called luteinising hormone (LH). LH is secreted into the blood from a gland close to the brain called the pituitary gland, and causes a follicle to ovulate into the oviduct. Ovulation usually occurs approximately 32 hours after a LH surge.

If sperm are present, the egg will be fertilised and then travel down the oviduct arriving in the uterus approximately 3-4 days later. Where the egg was released from the ovary, a structure called a corpus haemorrhagicum forms, that over a few days turns into a corpus luteum (CL) which secretes progesterone. Progesterone suppresses the amount of LH in circulation, while a hormone called follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) prepares waves of follicles ready for the next ovulation.

If fertilisation did not occur, the uterus releases prostaglandin into the blood stream which removes the CL from the ovary. As a result progesterone levels gradually reduce and LH and oestrodiol levels rise resulting in heat behaviour and ovulation and the cycle continues.

If fertilisation and implantation were successful then the PG is not released from the uterus and the CL continues to secrete progesterone which prevents further heats and ovulations. The CL is responsible for progesterone levels up until day 150 of pregnancy; thereafter the placenta also secretes progesterone which maintains pregnancy.

Post calving, the ovaries start to become active again with follicles starting to appear within 5 days of calving. There has to be sufficient oestrodiol to stimulate an LH surge for ovulation to occur, the period when a cow is not cycling and ovulating is called anoestrus. There are several factors that reduce the LH surge, delaying ovulation and prolonging anoestrus.

Negative energy balance post calving can have a significant effect, so the cow must be in good condition at calving as well as maintaining dry matter intakes pre- and post-calving. In suckler cows, the presence of the calf and suckling behaviour reduces LH levels and prolongs anoestrus, so suckler cows often don’t resume normal cyclicity for 4 weeks to 3 months post calving in comparison to a well-managed dairy cow that can be cycling within 2- 3 weeks. The complex hormone interactions that happen during the oestrus cycle can be manipulated by hormonal drugs to treat cystic ovarian disease, anoestrus and synchronise cows for artificial insemination.

Throw your foot trimmers away! - Cameron Roberts (4th Year RVC Student)

The loss of traditional skills from the countryside has been the lament of the older generation for centuries. As farming practices change, the old ways of doing things are succeeded by ‘superior’ methods – for better or worse. However, what was once one of the shepherd’s most vital skills might soon have to join this long list of forgotten techniques 

There is a growing collection of data that shows that foot trimming of sheep may in fact be detrimental to the foot health of the flock. The main reason is that in fit and healthy animals, any intervention is more likely to cause damage to the foot and potentially introduce infection. If the horn is cut too far back so the sole starts weight bearing the effect is only exacerbated. As for the old saying “no blood, no good”, I’m sure you can all guess what the research says about that.

But what about poor feet, surely the trimmers are needed to deal with a case of Foot Rot? Again, no they’re not. If anything, they cause even more damage. Recent studies have shown that foot trimming has a negative effect on the outcome of an infectious foot disease for two reasons. Firstly, the cutting the hoof slows the rate of healing of the infected foot. Also, any trimmings left lying around and even the shears themselves are laden with bacteria which inevitably end up transmitting infection to other sheep in the flock. Even dipping the shears in some disinfectant doesn’t completely sterilise them. So, not only are individual sheep lamer for longer but a higher proportion of the flock will be affected.

Current thinking on treatment of foot rot, scald and CODD says that the best course of action in these cases is to apply oxytetracyline spray liberally and give a long acting antibiotic injection such as oxytetracyline. Isolating these animals from the flock for 14 days is desirable to minimise contamination of the pasture or shed in the recovery period. Foot bathing is especially useful for dealing with group outbreaks (handy tip – put some wool off-cuts in the bath to stop sheep refusing to run through and minimise splash). As for routine foot management, ideally areas where sheep walk should be kept as clean, clear of debris and as dry as possible to reduce the chance of infection or damage to the foot. The flock should be checked a couple of times a week so that lame sheep can be treated swiftly.

As we look ahead to the start of the tupping season, exactly the same advice should be applied to all the boys on the farm. The temptation to trim back any overgrown horn is strong but the alternative is a high risk of a foot infection that will certainly stop the tups getting to work this autumn.

Lameness currently affects about 10% of the national flock but with good management, this could realistically be reduced to around 2%. Apart from anything else, imagine the time this would save!


Calf Disbudding Practices of UK Farmers

This study has been launched by a vet student from the Royal Veterinary College as part of their final year research project.

All you have to do is complete a short questionnaire in which your response will remain anonymous.  You will be entered into a free prize draw to win a £25 Amazon voucher.

You can access the survey by following this link:


This study has been launched by a vet student from the Royal Veterinary College as part of their final year research project.

All you have to do is complete a short questionnaire in which your response will remain anonymous.  You will be entered into a free prize draw to win a £25 Amazon voucher.

You can access the survey by following this link:


Drugs Now In Stock

  • Quarantine treatments for bought-in sheep e.g. Triclafas, Hepatavac P, Footvax, Dectomax, Levacide, Startect.
  • Pneumonia vaccines for cattle e.g. Rispoval 4, Ripoval IN, Tracherine.



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