SureCalves thrive with new owners

The entry of calves wearing blue ear tags at two of the leading suckled calf sales last autumn created much discussion regarding the preparation of calves for transport and sale.

Monday, 12th September 2016, 9:07 am
Updated Tuesday, 13th September 2016, 9:43 am

The calves were part of the SureCalf ® programme, a health programme introduced by leading animal health company Zoetis, to reduce the risk for buyers of setbacks from respiratory disease following the stresses of transport and sale and to promote increased demand for sellers who invest in protecting their calves pre-sale. The blue ear tag is used by the sellers of SureCalves to clearly identify these animals at the mart.

One of the centres participating in the SureCalf ® programme was Enniskillen Livestock Mart, and purchasing at this venue was Liam Russell from Downpatrick. Liam finishes approximately 120 to 130 calves each year and purchases around 75% of these in Enniskillen.

Some of those he purchased last autumn were SureCalves ® and he states that they have been thriving since purchase, and without the need for further vaccination post sale. He said: “I vaccinated the other calves I purchased with Rispoval ® 4 when they arrived at the farm. I have always used Rispoval ® 4 for purchased calves but did not re-vaccinate the blue tagged calves. It is a great scheme as the calves arrived with a good bloom and despite inevitable stress from going through the mart followed by such a long journey to my farm, the calves did not seem to suffer any of the usual problems we see in bought in animals.”

Liam added: “Enniskillen is a great centre for calves, the livestock farmers in that area do not have the land or climate to consider a lot of alternative enterprises so do not jump easily from one enterprise to another. Whether dairy or beef units they concentrate solely on their livestock, improving cow quality and using high genetic merit bulls.”

Liam would like to see a more structured and meaningful market system which rewards those farmers who produce quality cattle and finish them to a high specification.

Sharman Dougan who farms at Red Rock Road, Collone in Co.Armagh received calves from Enniskillen Mart which were purchased by an agent. Unfortunately he only received one blue tagged calf. He said: “I did have some trouble with pneumonia even though I had vaccinated the calves after purchase. This is not as effective as having it done before sale. The only calf that I did not need to treat was the SureCalf ® with the blue ear tag. I was so pleased with it that I actually rang the mart and got the vendor’s name and rang him to find out more about this programme.”

Aurelie Moralis, Veterinary Consultant with Zoetis agrees that vaccination after sale is not as effective as that done before the stress of transport and sale. She went on to explain that a combination of the stress of transportation and mixing of calves from different sources increases exposure to new pathogens. This increases the risk of respiratory disease, with the potential for calves to suffer setbacks when they arrive at the finishing farm. Not only does this cost money in treatment and calf losses but it can also extend the time needed to finish these calves - costs that the industry cannot afford in today’s economic climate.