Newsletter January 2019

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Crosscroft Industrial Estate Appleby-in-Westmorland CA16 6HX


January 2019 Edition 

Happy New Year to all our clients!

Congratulations to the winners of our Christmas quiz, the Bousfield family at Holme Farm Appleby.

The runners up were

Mrs Fletcher, Barwise Hall

and Mr Ewin, Eden Flatt.

Don’t forget we have a ‘responsible use of medicines talk’ at Appleby Golf Club on Wednesday 23rd January at 7pm.

Spaces are filling up fast so call the practice to book your place!

Colostrum management in cattle

As we all know good colostrum management is absolutely vital to ensure

a calf gets the best start in life. It provides the calf with antibodies against all the diseases its dam has encountered, is an excellent source of fats and proteins, contains vitamins, promotes ‘good’ bacteria in the digestive tract and contains hormones which help development of the intestines. The ‘5 Qs’ are a handy way to make sure that colostrum management is tip top on your farm!

1)     Quantity

It is generally recommended that a calf should receive 10% of its bodyweight in colostrum as soon as possible after birth, which in practice is usually 3­4L. This would require 20 minutes continuous feeding on the cow, so if in doubt, stomach tube or bottle feed the first meal. It has also been shown that feeding a further 2-­ 3L 6-­12 hours later further increases the number of antibodies transferred to the calf. Here is an example of how the volume of colostrum fed has had an impact on a group of Brown Swiss calves:


  Fed 2L colostrum Fed 4L colostrum
Number of cows in group 37 31
Average daily weight gain (kg) 0.8 kg 1.03 kg
Age at 1st conception (months) 14 months 13.5 months
% culled before 2nd lactation 24.7% 12.9%
Total milk in 1st & 2nd lactation 16,044L 17,072L

2)       Quality

The highest quality colostrum is produced at the first milking after calving, thereafter quality deteriorates. Many factors influence colostrum quality:

Age ­ cows generally higher quality than heifers.

Length of dry period ­ a short dry period usually lowers colostrum quality (at least 4 weeks is necessary to produce good quality colostrum).

Vaccination status of the dam ­ antibodies passed on to the calf.

Stress during the last 5 weeks before calving ­ less antibodies are transferred to colostrum if the cow is under any kind of stress in the last 5 weeks of pregnancy.

Trace element status ­ selenium, vitamin E and iodine effect colostrum quality

Cows with mastitis, chronic disease or that have leaked milk before calving have a much reduced colostrum quality.


Ideally all colostrum should be tested prior to feeding, with only good quality colostrum fed at the first feed. We have a refractometer at the practice to test colostrum quality if you are interested in assessing the status of colostrum. Results can be surprising ­ colostrum that looks like it would be good quality is not always so!

If in doubt, we stock Immucol Platinum colostrum. This contains highest levels of antibodies of all the replacers and is guaranteed Johnes, EBL and IBR free.

As always, the colostrum from cows that are positive for Johnes should NOT be fed to calves.

3) Quickly

Colostrum should be fed as soon after birth as possible! The highest absorption of maternal antibodies is in the first four hours after birth. You may have heard the gut of the newborn calf described as being ‘open’. This means that it is able to absorb larger proteins than an older calf could. These large proteins include the mother’s antibodies, but also E.coli and other opportunistic bacteria. As soon as the first large proteins are absorbed the gut begins to close. It is very important to make sure that the first proteins are antibodies and not bacteria!! Otherwise a calf may well develop septicaemia or scour.

4)       sQueaky clean

As mentioned above, any bacterial contamination will put the calf at risk. Bacterial numbers double every 20 minutes in colostrum stored at room temperature.

All equipment used to collect, store and feed colostrum should be scrupulously clean! There should be no visible dirt, equipment should be cleaned with detergent between feeding and allowed to air dry.

To lengthen the shelf life of colostrum it can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Alternatively it can be frozen for up to 12 months. Make sure to label the bag with the cow ID and date of collection so any colostrum from a cow subsequently found to be Johnes positive can be traced and destroyed. Any calf fed colostrum from another dam should have its number recorded. Before feeding, frozen colostrum should be gradually reheated and not microwaved.

5)      Quantify

Up to 50% of calves do not get enough colostrum. It is useful to monitor the success of a colostrum protocol so amendments can be made if necessary. We can take a blood sample from calves aged between 1 and 7 days of age to test total protein level. We test this in house, with results available by the end of the day.

Clostridial diseases of sheep                                 

We have had a few cases of clostridial disease diagnosed lately ­ this can be a significant problem in unvaccinated flocks and often the only sign of infection is sudden death.

Clostridia are bacteria which are present in the environment (especially soil) and within the digestive tract. The most common clostridial diseases are as follows:

  • Pulpy Kidney ­ most commonly Associated with a change in diet and concentrate feeding. Sudden death.
  • Blackleg ­ clostridia enter through cuts and wounds or contaminated needles, sheep are dull and depressed with a fever, they may be severely lame on one
  • Braxy ­ unvaccinated weaned lambs in the winter months, associated with ingestion of frozen root crops or Sudden death.
  • Tetanus ­ seen in lambs, stiff muscles, seizure activity and eventual death due to respiratory
  • Big head ­ seen in rams during late summer/early autumn when head butting is common, see swelling of the head particularly surrounding the
  • Lamb dysentery ­ commonly seen in lambs under three week of Lambs may appear hunched up with a bloody scour, but are often found dead.
  • Blacks disease ­ associated with immature fluke migrating through the liver in late summer/early autumn and can affect unvaccinated sheep of all Sudden death.


Several vaccines are available which are very effective. In general the protocol is to initially give two vaccinations four to six weeks apart followed by an annual vaccination four to six weeks before the expected lambing date. Lambs can be vaccinated from three weeks old so the protocol is complete before weaning and the subsequent decline in protective antibodies from the ewe.

Nearly all cases of clostridial disease are fatal so prevention with vaccination is essential! Some cases of blackleg and bighead may respond to treatment with Penicillin and anti­inflammatories if caught early.