Animal Health Expenditure Review

The use of Restricted Veterinary Medicines (RVM) to both treat and prevent disease and enhance productivity can be viewed as both a cost and an investment.  Based on accurate sales and production data, the average farm in our practice this season spent:

  • 8.5c/kgMS in total on all RVMs
  • 3c/kgMS on RVMs directly associateed with the treatment of disease - i.e. mastitis, endometritis, lameness etc.

Last year the average Systems 4 farm in NZ had Farm Working Expenses (FWE) of $3.88/kgMS (source - DairyNZ Economic Survey 16-17).  Therefore the average farm in our practice will be spending about 2.2% of FWE on RVMs and 0.8% of FWE RVMs associated with treatment of disease.

A farm's expenditure on RVMs associated with treatment of disease is a good indicator of the large costs associated with disease.  The actual cost of treatment pales in significance when compared to the other direct costs of disease such as reduced milk production, dumped milk, increased culling, empties and labour.  It is estimated that a single case of the following dieases have the associated costs:

  • Mastitis - MA cows - $120
  • Mastitis - Heifer - $215
  • Endometritis - $200-300
  • Lame cow - $300-700
  • Non-cycling cows - $285

Over the period of the next two months we will be looking to do an Animal Health Expenditure Review with all our clients as part of the annual RVM consult.  The purpose being to identify potential opportunity cost in your business and to identify areas where specific improvements can be made to increase your profitability.

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Using Teatseal alone at Last Dry Off

The following data comes from a 1400 cow herd that last season, based on cell count, treated cows with a SCC >150 with Cepravin and the cows with a SCC <150 with Teatseal.

When assessing the effectiveness of a DCT strategy it is the first 1-2 months of lactation that provide the best answers.  The cows that received Teatseal had less than a 5% incidence of mastitis in the first month of lactation.  This is less than our clinic target of 6% and it was also lower than the Cepravin treated cows.  You will also note that the higher SCC cows (Cepravin treated) had a higher incidence for the remainder of the lactation.  High SCC cows from one season tend to be at greater risk of reinfection throughout the next season.  Culling chronically infected cows will mitigate some of this problem.

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When offering enough feed doesn't cut it.......

We have just completed the first weights on a mob of poor-doing calves that have been enrolled in the GrowSmart programme by their owner.  The calves, weighed on the 21st March, are currently 41kg behind target, and therefore will need a very aggressive intervention plan if they are to reach industry targets by mating.

The traditional model for "ill-thrift" investigations looks at four main areas that are likely to be involved when animals aren't reaching targets.  In order of importance these are:

  1. Nutrition (or lack of)
  2. Parasitism
  3. Trace Element (deficiencies)
  4. Other Disease

These investigations therefore require a holistic approach to the farm and situation.  "Feeding More" isn't always going to solve the problem if the underlying issue is one of parasitism, trace elements, or other disease.

On this farm a combination of factors appear to be involved, however one of the main issues appears to be a very high pasture larval contamination.  The typical picture of larval contamination is a farm that has:

  • had a lot of young stock grazing the paddock over a few years
  • the calves usually look "wormy" even soon after a drench
  • often eating low on the grass sward

Unless addressed, a high pasture larval level will work to decrease growth rates by decreasing voluntary feed intakes (markedly!).

To overcome this, we have opted to use ALPHEUS anti-parasitic capsules in the calves.  These capsules have been on the market for a couple of years now and have shown great promise on these farms with high challenge situations.  The capsules, which have a levamisole and oxfendazole primer and abamectin payload, last 125 days, and are suitable to cattle up to 300kg.  They should kill all incoming larvae on a daily basis, and therefore negate the effects of contaminated pasture.  Alpheus capsules are now competitively priced.

Watch this space - we will re-weigh this mob in another month and see what difference the capsules have had on our ability to properly feed these calves.  If your calves appear to be behind, get in touch with one of our vets ASAP to discuss the holistic GrowSmart package.

BCS Cows Now to Plan for Next Season

Final PD results are in and next years calving spread has been established.  It is now time to start thinking about effective autumn/winter management of cows with the aim of getting mature cows to BCS 5.0 and R2's and R3's to 5.5.

What's the point in achieving the above targets you may ask.  It is now well established that cows that calve in optimal condition (BCS 5.0 v 4.0) will produce more than 20kg of MS extra over the first 8 weeks of lactation and will resume cycling about 10 days earlier.  These earlier cycling cows will tend to have better conception rates come mating time.  

To achieve target BCS at calving some planning needs to be put in place now.  The average cow in NZ only manages to gain 0.5 of a BCS over the dry period.  Therefore, mature cows should ideally be dried off at BCS 4.5 and R3's at 5.0. Early identification of light cows in the autumn means that they can receive special attention.  This may involve one or a combination of the following - OAD milking, increased grain or PKE allocation or early dry off.  Cows can then be rescored in May for winter group creation.

If all cows reach a similar BCS at dry off it will simplify wintering as cows only need to be wintered in 'due to calve groups'.

Ask your prime vet about individual BCSing of cows during a milking.

Vet Certification for Transport

As the mating season concludes many farms will be looking to offload bulls and start making decisions over cull cows.  It is during this time we see an increased requirement for veterinary transport certificates.  It is a legal requirement that animals are fit for transport.  The certificate remains valid for 7 days from the date of examination and the animal must be slaughtered at the nearest processing plant.

What we need from you:

  • An area to adequately examine and restrain the animal when required
  • The animal tagged with a recordable number for identification
  • The location of the processing plant and when killing space has been booked.

From a veterinary point of view:

Due to increased scrutiny being placed on transport certificates by MPI, there is strict criteria that we as veterinarians must follow.  Below are common conditions requiring certification and the associated requirements.

Penile conditions: Bulls must be able to urinate freely, not have any haemorrhage, swelling, abscessation or discharge from the area surrounding the penis.

Cancer eye: The cancer cannot be larger than a $1 coin (2cm) confined to the eye or eyelid (not spreading), not bleeding or discharging pus.

Lameness: Great emphasis is now being placed on lame animals being transported for slaughter.  Lameness is scored 0-3.  Grade 2 animals may be certified fit for transport with specific instructions such as reduced pen density.  The link below is the Dairy NZ lameness scoring system and I strongly encourage all farmers to view the following video to assess whether the animal is a suitable candidate for certification. 

https://www.dairynz.co.nz/animal/cow-health/lameness/lameness-scoring/