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Welcome to our Beef & Sheep Veterinary Newsletter for May 2020 – your update on everything that’s going on.

Lamb Diarrhoea

With lamb scour being a concern at this time of year, Nematodirus remains our highest priority, however we also need to discuss other causes of scour at pasture such as Coccidiosis. This parasite is a risk to lambs over 4 weeks old with clinical signs presenting 2 weeks after turnout; this includes scour, straining lambs, poor growth and sudden death. Oocysts (eggs) survive on pasture over winter. Ingestion of a low level of hatched cocci oocysts in spring triggers immune development, but if environmental pressure becomes too high, debilitating disease can occur. Worm egg counts are important to ensure cocci is the causal agent – only 2 of the many species of cocci cause disease. Collect teaspoon sized samples of fresh faeces from lambs only to assess for cocci burdens sampling 10% of the group. Do not let samples get warm between collection and delivery as oocysts hatch giving us falsely low readings. If you are concerned about Coccidiosis on your farm or are unsure about Coccidiosis treatments, please speak to us at the practice for more advice.

Bull breeding soundness

Recent studies in the UK show that 20-30% of fertility tested bulls are subfertile. This is crucial when beef suckler profitability relies on kilos of beef weaned per number of cows put to the bull. Any inflammatory processes e.g. lameness or an increased temperature can damage sperm leading to a subfertile bull which won’t necessarily be detected until cows are presented for PD. Therefore, investing a bit of time and money prior to the breeding season to make sure you are set up to be as efficient as possible is well worthwhile. We recommend having all bulls tested, 610 weeks prior to the start of the service period. This allows time for bulls to be treated/recover from any issues and then re-tested as the whole cycle of sperm production can take up to 60 days or worst case scenario for any replacement bulls to be sourced. A fully fertile bull run with 40-50 cows should achieve an average pregnancy rate to each service of 60%. This would result in 94% of cows being pregnant within 9 weeks of breeding. A sub-fertile bull that is achieving for example, only a 40% pregnancy rate to each service, would result in only 78% of cows being pregnant after a 9 week mating period. A significant increase in barren rates or an extended calving block!

A bull breeding soundness exam includes checking:

  • Feet, legs and locomotion (fundamental for service)
  • Body condition score (aim for 3 – 3.5)
  • Health treatments are up to date (vaccinations, blood samples for new purchases/accreditation, parasite control)
  • Internal and external sexual organs (including testicle size/consistency)
  • Semen quality (volume, density, motility and abnormalities)

Buying a new bull is a big investment and he needs to stay fit and fertile for at least six breeding years to be cost effective, pass on the genetic traits he was picked for and produce healthy, viable calves. However, data suggests that the average bull lifespan is six years resulting in only four working seasons. Therefore, we need to make sure we always look after our bulls to get the best return. A breeding soundness exam will help identify issues early on. If you are interested in this service please give the farm office a call to book an appointment with Wendy.

Seeking Participants for a Research Project

The University of Liverpool is running a project to investigate Johne’s disease on UK beef and sheep farms. Ovine Johne’s disease is much more common than most people realise and this project will investigate the risk factors and effect of the disease on the productive lifespan of ewes and farm economics. Furthermore, little research has been done on cross species transmission and a major aim of this project is to better understand the risk posed by sheep to cattle for Johne’s infection and vice versa.

We would like to invite sheep only, beef only and mixed beef and sheep farms to participate in this practical research, whether you think you have Johne’s on your farm or not. If you wish to take part, please complete the short questionnaire which can be found at https://

Along with further information about the project and a consent form. A follow up, free of charge visit for flock and/or herd-level sampling and further data collection will be arranged for later in the year for approximately 100 suitable farms. Each enrolled farm will receive a detailed diagnostic report from the samples collected, free of charge.

Please feel free to email Laura Taylor at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for further information.

Pelvic scoring beef suckler heifers

Got surplus heifers? Wondering which to breed as replacements? Want to minimise calving difficulties? We can help!

We can identify heifers with narrow pelvises that are likely to cause problems at first calving. This “pelvic scoring” is common in the US and New Zealand, and is now taking off in the UK too. It’s quick and easy to do, and the benefits can be dramatic. On UK farms, it has led to halving the number of assisted calvings and reductions in calf losses by almost two-thirds.

How do we do it? We use callipers to measure the internal diameter of the pelvis. We then calculate the size of the birth canal and use a computer tool to account for heifer weight and age. The tool calculates the size of the calf that, in 9 months’ time, the heifer should be able to calve without assistance.

Heifers with very small pelvis relative to their size stand out, and we would strongly recommend that you do not breed from them. If you have a surplus of heifers, this can reveal heifers that really ought not be retained in your herd. Of course, this cannot be a perfect prediction of calving ease, because growth rates, bull factors and individual variation also have influence. But it can clearly reveal animals at high risk of problems that should be selected out of the herd, helping to maximise welfare, efficiency and herd performance. If you’d like further information, or for us to visit and do some pelvic scoring, please get in touch.

Free visits available for Mastitis and Pneumonia cases in Cattle

We’re involved in a national research project running throughout this year that will enable (a limited number of!) free visits, sampling and lab analysis for mastitis cases and for pneumonia cases.

The project organisers aim to create a new sample database of bacteria that have not been exposed to antibiotics. This will be used for research into new and existing therapeutics, and also treatment failures. The organisers therefore cover our costs of visiting animals with either mastitis or pneumonia and taking samples for analysis.

We took on the project believing that it will help us to get involved in problems on farm at an early stage, at no cost to yourselves. It fits with our aims as a vet practice, and we hope that it appeals to you for the same reasons, too. The project will run until the end of 2020.

Which cases are eligible?

The table below explains which cases are eligible for the study:

Disease Signs Included if: Excluded if:
Mastitis Milk from a quarter is visibly abnormal (flake/ clots/ watery) OR any of: Swelling, redness, heat or tenderness/pain on palpation Lactating cow (rather than dry cow or precalved heifer) Chronic case. Received antibiotics for any reason in last 15 days
Pneumonia Depression, high temperature (>40°C) AND one/more of: fast breathing, difficulty breathing, cough, discharge from nose Calves between 3 weeks and 12 months of age Chronic condition. Received antibiotics for any reason in last 21 days


The value of this work is often well in excess of £100, and to you it will be free of charge. We hope that this sounds like something you’d like to be involved in.

What costs are covered?

  • Visit fee
  • Vet time fees
  • Lab fees
  • Advice on the results

What costs are not covered?

  • Medicines for treating cases
  • Sampling of more cases than the project allows (there is a limit on the number of cases that can be sampled on a farm within a time period)
  • “Whilst you’re here” other work
  • Further disease investigation work

How to get involved

If you have a case that you think may be eligible, please contact the practice as early as possible. State that you’re calling about the mastitis or pneumonia research project. Our reception team may then ask you a few questions just to check that it meets the criteria, and will send a vet out if necessary. Even if the case does not fit the project criteria, as always, you’ll have the option to speak to a vet about it.

Covid-19 update

It would be impossible to send out a monthly newsletter without focusing on the global pandemic of highly contagious Coronavirus. As an industry it is vital that we maintain a strong food supply to an already struggling and panicked nation and in light of this we want to reassure you that your farm animal veterinary team at The Park Vet Group will continue to provide you as close to “normal” services as is safe to do so over the coming weeks and months. To ensure the ongoing safety of yourselves, other clients, and our team we have made some changes to how we operate. We ask that you help us by engaging with these measures to reduce the spread of Covid-19 and keep our veterinary team supporting your businesses and providing essential services.