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- There is a global movement against the use of antibiotics in animals with more emphasis being placed on disease prevention.
- One goal of disease prevention is to breed stronger calves that can withstand the pressure of diseases and pests.
- Parasite control is especially important in spring, as external parasites usually wait for the hot months and summer rains.
- Protein supplementation is essential in winter because the quality of grazing is then at its lowest.
- Vitamin A in particular should be supplemented as dry winter grass may cause a deficiency.
There is currently a global movement against the use of antibiotics in animals and more and more emphasis is being placed on disease prevention. The reasoning behind this is that some producers make excessive use of these medicines, which in turn increases resistance in organisms, leading to so-called ‘super bugs’.
One goal of disease prevention, is to breed stronger calves that can withstand the pressure of diseases and pests. However, several management factors play a role, including nutrition, parasite control, health, hygiene and genetics. A good herd health programme is therefore essential, but should be properly planned.
According to a technical article by Drs Shaun Morris, Eben du Preez and Pierre Jansen van Vuren on Grain SA’s website, immunisation is one of the most important elements of a herd health programme. The following vaccinations for female animals are recommended in the article:
- Viral diseases: Bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD), infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR) or pneumonia, bovine respiratory syncytial virus, parainfluenza virus, Rift Valley fever, lumpy skin disease, and three-day stiff-sickness.
- Bacterial diseases: Mannheimia haemolytica, Pasteurella multocida, Histophilus somni, Brucella abortus (brucellosis), blackquarter, anthrax, botulism, multi-clostridial diseases and E. coli.
Useful guidelines for breeders
Nelius Ferreira, a well-known meat producer in the Free State, is closely involved with organised agriculture and especially the Red Meat Producer’ Organisation (RPO). He compiled some useful guidelines (Table 1) as part of an animal health management programme for breeders. It is aimed at pregnant cows or heifers and covers the time until the calf is weaned, and the heifer calves have reached breeding age.
However, he emphasises that the table should only be used as guideline. “The ideal is for each producer to set up an immunisation programme suited to his/her farm and for the diseases that occur in that area, along with his/her veterinarian.”
Table 1: Guidelines for a management and vaccination programme on the farm.
Most manufacturing and marketing companies specialising in animal medicine have developed similar guidelines. Dr Hanré Bredenkamp of Afrivet has, among other things, compiled a management programme that indicates when animals should be dewormed and when condition scores must be done. She has also compiled a programme to combat parasites.
According to Dr Bredenkamp, external parasite control can be done practically throughout the year. “Parasite control is especially important in spring, as external parasites usually wait for the hot months and summer rains. Strategic blue tick and fly control should be done in spring to limit eye infections.
“Blue ticks, multi-host ticks and blowfly infestation on wounds should be controlled in summer. Tactical blue tick and multi-host tick control can be applied in autumn. Mites and lice should be controlled in winter.”
According to Dr Bredenkamp, strategic liver fluke treatment and roundworm management in young heifers and cows with a low condition score must be done in spring.
“Liver fluke treatment can be continued in summer. Roundworm and tapeworm control in three-month-old calves should also be addressed during the hot months.
“The liver fluke, which is still in its immature stage, can be controlled during autumn. Vaccination for pear-shaped stomach fluke and roundworm should be administered during autumn/winter. It is also a good time for roundworm control in cows and heifers with a low condition score, due to calve in spring.”
Vitamin and mineral supplementation
Dr Bredenkamp says vitamin supplements also play an important role in the vaccination programme. Vitamins and minerals should be supplemented during spring before the breeding season. Since grazing is usually abundant in summer, a phosphate lick will be sufficient.
During the autumn months, when the calves are being weaned, it is important to supplement vitamins and minerals in young animals to prevent deficiencies and ensure rapid growth. Vitamin A in particular should be supplemented as dry winter grass may cause a deficiency.
Protein supplementation is essential in winter because the quality of grazing is then at its lowest. Breeders are also advised to supplement vitamins and minerals before the calving season.
However, Dr Bredenkamp emphasises that a veterinarian needs to be involved during the preparation of each producer’s animal health programme. “It should form part of the producer’s management programme. The veterinarian is usually clued up as to which diseases occur in the area and what producers should look out for. There is no one-size-fits-all programme that will work on every farm.” – Koos du Pisanie, Stockfarm
For more information, contact Nelius Ferreira on 082 316 3108 and Dr Hanré Bredenkamp on 083 695 6246.