Options for the Successful Treatment of Bearings

Bearings are a function of internal pressure and vaginal wall integrity.  The internal pressure changes come from:

  • Rumen
  • Bladder
  • Uterus
  • Abdominal fat
  • Gravity

That's why triplets have the greatest risk (more uterus volume).  That's why gorge feeding, feed changes and bulky feed can be a risk: the rumen expands rapidly and produces more gas when not adjusted.  That's why sitting down for long periods, and high water content feed (fodderbeet and swedes) and salt can be a risk: the bladder gets bigger.  That's why weight gain post mating is a risk: increase in abdominal fat.  That's why low calcium levels are a risk: smooth muscle not as toned (and why Vitamin D might help).

For these reasons that why exercise throughout the day, consistent rumen fill and feeding levels are protective against bearings.  However we can't prevent them all.  Successful treatment of bearings relies on early detection, expression of the bladder, gentle and clean replacement and effective retention.  Exposure time is a prognostic indicator of success.  Early treatment involves thoroughly cleaning the vagina and gently lifting it to allow the ewe to urinate.  Following prolapse, ewes are unable to urinate due to a kink in the urethra.  Lubricant should always be used and gentle even pressure applied to replace the prolapse.  Replacing the bearing is easiest when the back end of the ewe is elevated.  Retention of the bearing can be by external pressure from a number of options including internal bearing retainers, harnesses or a purse string suture around the vulva with umbilical tape or suture.  All ewes should be prophylactically covered with antibiotics.  Suitable choices are a Penicillin of Tetracycline derivative.

Pre Lamb Drenching

Pre-lamb drench topic is a hardy annual topic for vet-farm discussions.  The fact is parasitism is always going to be a cost to production and as seasons and farm systems change, our approaches to worm control need to adapt.  I have been busy these last few days discussing pre-lamb animal health with farmers.  It is a process that I think is valued by those that want to rationalise their decisions each year.

I do encourage farmers to consider all the tools available and take on board the sustainable drench use message.

A key 1st principle message is to reduce larval challenge in young stock, and optimise breeding stock condition and feeding during lactation.  Farms that achieve this are not only going to beat the worms, they are going to be vastly more profitable.  The application is the complex bit......

To Do:

  • Get a plan for worm control this spring
  • Think what is best for my capital stock in the current conditions
  • Work some refugia into your plan.

Feeding Ewes Early Pregnancy

If ewes are in optimal condition, once passed the 1st cycle of mating, they do not need to continue to be gaining weight.  The excess of grass around this year means it will take proactive management not to allow breeding ewes to gain weight in the 1st trimester.  May to June is an opportune time to tidy up poorer quality paddocks or even feed-out 2nd year baleage to conserve green feed for later pregnancy.

I do not like to discourage farmers from feeding stock well, but there is some evidence showing that there is an increased bearing risk with weight gain through this period.  Yes lamb birth weight is affected by feeding levels at every stage of gestation, so it makes sense to save better quality and quantity of feed for twin bearing ewes after scanning.

Body Condition Scoring

BCS and feed budgeting is the way to take the guess-work out of this subject.  I expect more ewes should be in better than BCS 3 this mating and will be scanning well this year.  The next bit is to set them up for optimising lamb birth weight and survival without getting them stuck upside down cast or poking their back-end's out.

If there are lighter BCS ewes, then taking them out early for preferential treatment makes it possible to "re-build" condition from now to the point of lambing.  Adding BCS to light twinning ewes after scanning and shearing is hard to do with the bigger foetus taking a greater part of reserves.

Ewes Hoggets

The recommendation is slightly different for ewe hoggets.  These need to keep gaining body weight through mating and early pregnancy, ideally 4kg per month from now to the end of June should see a standard cross-bred hogget reach ~50kg.

Nitrate Poisoning

It is again the time of year when Nitrate Poisoning rears its ugly head.  With the widespread excellent autumn growth conditions, many farmers are taking advantage of applying nitrogen to boost growth leading into winter.  One thing we do know is that when plant growth is slowed by cold or overcast weather, plants will accumulate nitrate.  The first sign often seen in livestock is sudden death so plant testing is essential before placing stock on any at risk crop or pasture.  Drop samples into any of our clinics or arrange for our Territory Managers to come and sample.  We can test within the hour at all of our clinics or if large numbers of samples are required to be tested we can provide a kit and training on how to undertake samples yourself.

Free BVD Screening with Beef Pregnancy Testing

In previous seasons the Veterinary Centre has been able to secure funding to cover the lab fee component of BVD screening of beef cattle herds.  This year this initiative has been extended so that during pregnancy testing visits our vets are now able to take a set of samples from the herd and have them screened for BVD at no charge to the farmer.  This gives our practice the unique opportunity of effectively mapping our entire district for prevalence of BVD in practically all the beef herds in our district.  This information will be invaluable in guiding our veterinarians and farms in the make up of BVD control plans.  If you have any questions just talk to one of our beef pregnancy testing team.  There is nothing required from the farmer except to give permission to take the samples, our team will take care of the entire process and provide you with the results for your herd. 

Eclipse E Injection for calves now with B12 and Selenium

Eclipse E B12 and Selenium injection has just been launched and is the first of its kind worldwide and is now available through your local Blue Cross Veterinary Centre.

Parasite Control

Young stock need a drench with active ingredients from at least two of the three main "active" groups.  Eclipse E contains eprinomectin and levamisole.  Eprinomectin is particularly good at killing the parasite Ostertagia.  The levamisole is very good at killing the parasite Cooperia, so both actives work together to kill the two most important internal parasites in calves.


 Vitamin B12 and selenium are both important trace minerals.

  • Selenium helps animals fight disease, grow and reproduce successfully.
  • Vitamin B12 is very important for the rumen microbes, and the animal itself, to be able to produce energy from grass.  To make B12 the rumen needs cobalt.  To correct a vitamin B12 deficiency, cobalt can be supplemented orally or B12 can be directly injected.


The most significant feature of Eclipse E B12 plus Se is convenience.  Most young stock will be receiving selenised vitamin B12 (probably via a product called Prolaject 2000 plus selenium) and a separate oral or pour on drench treatment.  Now Eclipse E B12 plus Selenium injection will look after trace minerals and provide one of the most potent, (if not the most potent) double active drench combinations on the market.  At $2 per 140kg dose there is a lot to like about this new product.


Manufacturing Failure - Flexidine!

There has been a manufacturing failure in the production of Flexidine long acting Iodine injection and there will be a limited supply available in 2018. The Veterinary Centre has been able to source a significant amount of available product and will allocate 50% of product to our clients based on last years usage.

Iodine is involved in egg and sperm development, ovulation, conception, pregnancy, lamb survivial and wool and milk production!

Note that halving the dose of Flexidine still gives significant iodine supplement but for a shorter duration.

Options to Consider:

  • Injecting a half dose (0.75mls) of Flexidine pre-tup, followed by Vet LSD (oral iodine, plus Vitamin A,D,E plus Selenium) 4 weeks pre-lamb
  • Drench Vet LSD (or oral iodine) pre-tup, and injecting a half dose Flexidine 4-8 weeks pre-lamb.
  • Drench Vet LSD (or oral Iodine) 3 weeks pre-tup, 8 weeks pre-lamb, and 4 weeks pre-lamb
  • Target a group for full dose Flexidine (say hoggets and two-tooths, where there is a higher lamb survival challenge).

These are some possible scenarios and there are obviously many more. Discuss the best options with our vets, with the aim of maintaining farm profitability in a realistic way, on your farm.

None of these options can give the surety of consistent iodine supplementation (for 8 months) delivered by a full dose of Flexidine but the aim is to find the best compromise.

Managing Lambs on Rocket Fuel Food

It is hard to knock sheep farming at the moment and in times like these I do start to have more conversation about those niggly deaths of ewes and lambs.  Probably the biggest cause of lambs deaths is not being organised to get clostridial vaccine into lambs.  I understand that lambs drafted off mothers are not around long enough to benefit from vaccinating, but after that there is value in preventing pulpy kidney.  For every dead lamb is the profit gone on another 4 live ones.

There are other causes of sudden death such as red gut and pneumonia, but we must never over-look the obvious and the basic.  There is no chemical resistance to 5 in 1 vaccinates (just effort resistance) and they are the most effective option for eliminating pulpy kidney - the major cause of sudden deaths.  It just needs to be DONE TWICE 4 WEEKS APART to be effective.

The look-a-like syndrome to pulpy kidney is red gut.  This occurs in lambs that are on a Lucerne of clover dominant pasture.  Red gut can be due to the low fibre content of high quality feed causing the rumen capacity to shrink.  Also the higher levels of protein fermented in the large bowel cause it to expand and prone to twisting.  Not usually occurring until the lambs have been on the feed for a month or more.  The disease process can be mitigated by:

  • Fibre (straw/hay) available - not always practical
  • Grazing on pasture 2/7 days
  • Mowing and wilting a few rounds of your Lucerne prior to grazing

Using 10 in 1 covexin vaccine has also been reported to be effect with stopping deaths on rocket fuel feed over and above 5 in 1.  Stepping up to covexin may also be of benefit when grazing sheep on fodder beet.  The high sugar content making animals more prone to clostridial growth.

Ewenews case study.jpg

Heat Stress in Working Dogs

Working dogs are at risk of overheating. The physical demands of the job in combination with hot summer weather can lead to heat stroke, which is a life threatening condition. The signs are excessive panting, trying to seek shade, drooling and collapsing.

'Heat stroke is an emergency and most animals that get hyperthermia need to be seen by a vet to help reduce their core temperature back to normal.'

When a dog’s core temperature begins to rise blood supply to the skin increases, but the blood supply reduces to vital internal organs such as the kidneys – potentially causing lifelong damage.

Things you can do to reduce the chances of heatstroke in your dog:

  • Try to keep dogs in the shade during the hottest part of the day
  • Try to do the bulk of mustering/work first thing in the morning
  • Ensure dogs have lots of access to cool, clean drinking water
  • Clip long-haired dogs during summer to help with heat control

If you notice a dog is too hot - hose the dog down, put them in a trough or cover them in wet, cool towels. Then contact your vet for further advice.


Animal Health Considerations this Spring

The key to maximising lamb growth rates to weaning is maintaining high quality, high protein pastures with a legume dominance. This is rare period where lambs have the potential to achieve up to 400g/day growth. Prioritising twinning mobs and 2 tooth’s/lambing hoggets to the best paddocks will not only assist with maximising lamb growth, it will also ensure these younger growing ewes can continue to develop frame and put on condition after peak lactation.

Internal parasite control:

Pre-weaning tape drenching of lambs is a worthwhile exercise to maximise growth to weaning especially as nematodirus or tape worms are present.

Feet soundness:

If you see limping lambs you are seeing lost potential growth rate and reduction in weaning weights. Yes, many do self-cure, but if there is footrot in the ewes, this lamb lameness will linger for longer. Troughing will help, especially in the early stages. Tailing is a good opportunity to have a dedicated lamb foot checker. Blue spraying (Tetravet aerosol) infected feet is a really good way to get on top of lamb lameness. There are non-antibiotic aerosol options also for those on antibiotic free contracts.

Copper, B12 and Selenium to yearling and breeding cattle:

In growthy springs, there can be a requirement to supplement cattle with extra B12 and Selenium to ensure they optimise the spring conditions. A boost of copper can also be warranted for growth cattle (although ideally, they should have had this during the winter)

Multi-min (Se, Cu, Zinc and Manganese) is popular for breeding cattle/heifers. There is some data to show it has additional benefits for conception rates/embryo survival. Otherwise Prolaject B12 2000+Se is a popular choice at the moment.

Working Dog Health - Twisted Stomach

Twisted stomach or Gastric Dilated Volvulus (GDV) in dogs is a reasonably common, rapid onset, emergency affecting large dogs.  Often the dog is found dead in its kennel in the morning, however if noticed and treated in time then the outcome is often good.  The key to success is the quick identification of the problem and getting into surgery.  Often a few hours make the difference between life and death.

The biggest risk factor of a GDV is dogs that have a direct relative having had one, which is due to the size and shape of the chest.  Large chested dogs, especially huntaways are most likely to experience a GDV.  Other risk factors for GDV include large meals/feeding every second day, drinking large amounts of water rapidly, dogs that eat rapidly and lean dogs.

Signs to look for - off food, vomiting or unproductive retching, tight/distended abdomen, whimpering and other signs of abdominal pain, pale gums, lethargy/collapse.

Treatment involves stabilising the dog, which is usually in shock, then proceeding to surgery, where the stomach is untwisted and stitched to the abdominal wall preventing it happening again.  The outcome of the surgery depends on the amount of time that the stomach has been twisted and the extent of damage to the stomach, in areas that have lost blood supply.  If corrected with the stomach tissue having good viability, the prognosis is good.

Prevention involves surgery (Gastropexy) to open the dog up and stitching the edge of the stomach to the abdominal wall, which lasts a lifetime.  Preventative surgery should be considered in all huntaways, especially in dogs with a direct relative having had a GDV and in valuable dogs.

Scabby Mouth

As tailing approaches so does the most practical opportunity to vaccinate against scabby mouth.  Outbreaks observed in the past 12 months confirm it is still present and extremely challenging and labour intensive to treat.

  • Scabby mouth infects animals through breaks in the skin resulting in raised red lesions and scabs.  Infections can occur anywhere on the body with the mouth, feet, udders and the poll of rams being very common.  Lamb infection results in significant effects on weight gains.
  • Lambs are most susceptible over their first summer so tailing is the most practical time to vaccinate.  Don't use the vaccine of farms that are free of the disease.
  • The best place to give the vaccination is the inside of the back leg unless fly treatments are being used, in which case the inside of the front leg should be used.
  • The vaccine is given by scratching the skin but don't scratch so firmly as to draw blood.  A blue dye is added to the vaccine so you can see where it has been applied.
  • Check the vaccination area of 20 lambs 7-10 days after vaccination to ensure that it has taken.  A take is a raised whitish line surrounded by an area of inflammation.
  • Keep the vaccine in a fridge until it is used and only take enough for the day.  During use keep it in a chilly bag and out of direct sunlight.
  • As scabby mouth can infect humans (orf) don't touch lesions or prick yourself with the vaccine.

Vet LSD Drench: Do Ewes need extra vitamin E pre-lamb?

New Zealand research has shown benefits of extra Vitamin E with respect to lamb survival.  The vitamin E antioxidant is tied up with selenium, fluid dynamics within the foetus and lamb vigour.  Vitamin E is highest in green, growing leafy feed and it is lower in grains and stored feed.  So you can probably decide whether your ewes might benefit from the additional vitamin supplement prior to lambing..... or if it is worth leaving out?

Our Vet-LSD has been formulated (with vitamin A,C,D&E + Se + Cronium) and tested in New Zealand environments and widely used for over 15 years, hence why we endorse the use of it.  It is an insurance against a very easily fixed deficiency that can cost you production.  It can be mixed with most drenches, just dilute 1:1 before mixing (a 2ml concentrate dose becomes 4ml).  Then add that to an allocated amount of drench for the mob e.g. 500 ewes getting a 15ml dose of drench = 7500ml drench, + 2000ml of Vet-LSD(1000ml Vet-LSD:1000ml water mix).  Ewes then get a 19ml dose of the combined mix.  We have confidence that it does not interact with other drenches.  We recommend using it on the same day that you make it up.

Bearing Prevention

There is the vibe that it will be a "bearing year".  The things that can be managed are consistency of feeding for ewes carrying multiples.  4 day shifts were protective compared with daily shifts.  In one Otago trial it is assumed the gradual intake rather than 2 hours gorging and then sitting down for long periods, is why the longer shifts help prevent bearings.  Mid pregnancy shearing has been shown to be protective against bearings.  Iodine and salt appear to have some role in some cases, anecdotal evidence suggests LSD drench may also reduce bearigns.  Exercise, slope and extremes of body condition are involved.  Weight gain post mating and carrying triplets were among the biggest risk factors....but we can't do much about that now.  It is a frustrating and complex issue worth discussing with your vet.

Footrot News

The autumn conditions in the region have been great for grass growth but are also providing some challengeswith animal health. Warmth and moisture have provided good conditions initially for interdigital dermatitis (scald) followed by the spread of footrot in infected flocks. This challenge phase has resulted in moderate to high infection levels in many flocks, particularly in fine wool.

What can be done now: winter conditions will begin to limit the spread from sheep to sheep. Troughing in zinc sulphate is an effective control measure. Removing obvious cases from the flock will help but will not provide effective control until scald has stopped occurring.

It is important to use the winter as an opportunity to reduce the level of infection before the usual challenge period in the spring.

Once scald is under control:

  • Tip sheep to identify chronic cases to remove from flock and treat
  • Put "clean" mob on pasture that hasn't had sheep graze it prior
  • Re-inspect "clean" and treatment mobs 2 weeks later.

This is a time consuming exercise but if completed well can reset the clock on footrot. Micotil antibiotic has shown in trial work to achieve high cure rates and we are seeing these repeated on farms around the district. Troughing can be effective if facilities allow sufficient contact time. Accurate identification of cases is important so we provide on farm training in correctly diagnosing footrot. Contact your local Vet Centre for any advice or development of a footrot control plan.

Autumn Worm & Feet Challenge for Sheep

Because of the warmer, moist conditions through April larval challenge has been high.  Lamb drench interval needs to remain at 28 days.  Use the most effective drench available.  Using a novel active such as Startect or Zolvix once in late Autumn is gaining momentum.

There is merit in using long acting drenches to grass wintered hoggets/fine wool lambs in these conditions.  2 tooth ewe faecal egg counts that have come through the clinic have generally been high and has warranted pre-tup drenching this year.  It would be prudent monitoring FEC at mid pregnancy stage.

Feet and footrot spread has been rampant this Autumn where flocks have come through spring with more than 5% infection - this can double every 2-4 weeks.  Those farms that put in the effort during last year's dry periods have reaped the benefits this year but vigilance is still required.  It has not been a good autumn for inspecting feet and attempting to make "clean mobs" because of the rampant spread.  The Micotil treatment system has been working well to salvage ewes and break the cycle of infection.  Footvax may be a tool more farms employ this winter/spring.

Weaner Calf Animal Health

At weaning give a combination worm drench orally or Eclipse E injectable or Eclipse pour-on.  Whilst calves are on their mothers' milk based diet internal parasites do not cause many issues but once weaned it is a major handbrake on pasture bases growth rates.

Minerals for weaners: it is hard to go past long acting selenium (Selovin LA) as a way to reliably sustain levels for the next 12 months.  Copper is also important.  Copacap copper bullets are longer acting, but Coppermax injection is a good alternative going into the winter, especially if wintering on brassicas.  Covexin 10 in 1 (or at a minimum Multine 5 in 1) vaccine is well justified at weaning and again 1 month later.  These vaccinations are critical if going onto fodderbeet.

Summary Recommendation at weaning: 1 x drench, 1 x mineral (selenium), 1 x vaccine (1st covexin). 5 weeks later: 1 x mineral (copper) 2nd covexin and drench if required.

Waitaki Valley Update - Sudden Death Cases

We have recently investigated several cases of sudden death in lambs that were diagnosed post mortem with pleuropneumonia, a very common problem typically occurring in late summer/autumn.

The economic impact of pneumonia is significant, not only due to lamb deaths but also with poor growth rates and downgrading of carcasses at slaughter.  Heat stress has been identified as a major risk factor, specifically open-mouthed breathing and panting, which allows infective organisms to bypass the protective defenses in the nose.  Other associated causes include dusty conditions, lack of shade, excessive dog use, high endophyte grasses and dehydration.

Shearing on the same day as weaning, with its increased stress and crowding also increases risk.  However, set stocking lambs after weaning has been shown to have a protective effect.  Fine wool breeds appear to be less susceptible, possibly due to increased heat tolerance.

Treatment is challenging however best results for prevention will occur from ensuring strong immune defenses, through good nutrition and disease control.  Giving a dose of Livestock Survival Drench has also been reported to reduce the incidence of pneumonia.

Sheep Keds

Recently we have seen an increased presence of Keds becoming an issue on farms predominantly in the Omarama, Palmerston and Ranfurly areas, particularly in fine wool sheep.  Due to compulsory plunge dipping of all sheep with organophosphate dips, in the past, Ked populations around the country were greatly reduced.  However some populations have started to re-emerge.

Sheep Keds are blood sucking wingless flies that cause irritation leading to fleece damage by rubbing as well as reduced growth rates and wool discolouration from digested blood in faeces.  Anaemia due to blood loss from high burdens is possible especially in young lambs.

Dipping with a product that has persistent activity for longer than the time it takes for pupae to hatch is required to kill all newly emerged adults.

It is important to form a plan with a combination of dipping and drenching to have the best result in eradicating Keds from your farm.  Best results come from using Cyrex for fly control as well as a lice dip that is effective against Keds.  This will either be a pour-on off shears or jet/shower dip with at least 4 weeks wool on.  Principals for control, as with lice control, are to have complete musters, secure boundary fences and quarantine dipping of any bought in stock.  To prevent growth limiting effects on lambs each drench should be either a Matrix or Switch, containing abamectin.

For any questions or to form an eradication plan talk to one of our Vets at the Blue Cross Veterinary Centre,.