Animal Health Services

Dairy and beef farmers recognise the importance of achieving a compact calving pattern in their herds.  This is of economic importance for both cow and calf management.  The majority of Irish herds are spring calving, and achieving the target mean calving of mid-February is a key driver of profitability.  On many farms, mean calving date is becoming later, the calving period is lenghtening, and replacement heifer numbers are increasing.  This could have catastrophic effects where herd expansion is taking place.

Apart from the obvious management factors such as heat detection efficiency, bull numbers and bull health, the major factors that can adversely affect cow fertility and health are:

  1. Poor dietary energy and protein management.
  2. Dietary mineral deficiencies or imbalances.
  3. Presence of infections diseases e.g. BVD, IBR, Leptospirosis, Johne’s disease, Neospora, Mycoplasma bovis, Salmonella.
  4. Presence of parasites e.g. Fluke, Ostertagia
  5. Low herd genetic merit for fertility traits.

The principal animal health services provided by FBA Laboratories are focused on herd fertility and mastitis control.  A holistic approach is taken to deal with the wide range of analytical services required to address the major contributory factors to infertility in dairy and beef herds.  These include analyses of Soils, Grazing Pasture, Silage, Concentrate Feeds, Milk, Blood and Ear Notch samples.

Every livestock farmer monitoring the factors influencing herd health should establish a Farm Biosecurity Plan. This should be done with the assistance of a veterinary practitioner and agricultural adviser.   FBA Laboratories will make specialist veterinary consultancy services available to the farmer’s professional adviser to assist with the interpretation of diagnostic tests.  Individual test results in isolation are of little value.  To achieve the full benefit of a testing programme, the analytical data must be carefully interpreted, and incorporated into a monitoring programme.  To achieve acceptable surveillance of herd health status, the recommended programme is to test bulk milk samples 3 to 4 times a year for:

  1. The 7 pathogens associated with fertility i.e. BVD, IBR, Leptospirosis, Johne’s disease, Neospora, Mycoplasma bovis, Salmonella.
  2. Fluke and Ostertagia
  3. Presence of mastitis-causing bacteria

When changes in bulk milk sample analysis show a herd disease problem, the next step will be individual animal testing (milk, blood or ear notch) to identify infected animals.  For example, if BVD  is discovered to be a problem, it will be necessary to identify persistently infected (PI) animals.  The Animal Health Ireland information leaflet on BVD gives very clear guidelines on how to approach a herd health programme.