Cough free herd impresses

Host farmer Mervyn McRoberts, right, with, from left, Martin Kavanagh, Cow Solutions, Joy Crawford, Lisburn Veterinary Clinic, and Mair�ad O'Grady, MSD Animal Health.
Host farmer Mervyn McRoberts, right, with, from left, Martin Kavanagh, Cow Solutions, Joy Crawford, Lisburn Veterinary Clinic, and Mair�ad O'Grady, MSD Animal Health.

“NOT a cough was heard as we walked through the cattle,” was the key comment from clients of Lisburn Veterinary Clinic visiting the award winning dairy herd of Mervyn McRoberts at Ballinderry.

A cough free herd producing quality milk thanks to excellent husbandry and to the animal health plan put in place by Mervyn with Joy Crawford of Lisburn Veterinary Clinic.

This herd health protocol includes protection against scour with the use of Rotavec Corona as prescribed by Mervyn’s vets. To keep herd performance on track preventing and controlling neonatal diarrhoea, scour, is essential.

Therefore all in-calf cows and heifers are vaccinated with a single 2ml shot of Rotavec Corona 12 to 3 weeks before calving.

Using Rotavec Corona ensures that every cow’s colostrum contains antibodies that protect against the three main causes of scour – Rotavirus, Coronavirus and E. coli.

Calves are at the greatest risk of E. coli infection in the first five days after birth, while Rotavirus and Coronavirus typically strike between four and 30 days after birth. This vaccination is a vital part of any herd health plan as scour is the number one cause of death in young calves.

Guest speaker at the event, Mairéad O’Grady, a veterinary advisor with MSD Animal Health, noted that where calf scour due to Cryptosporidium parvum is a problem disease is typically seen at 7-10 days old.


A comprehensive control programme must be implemented with the farm vet to minimise the spread of this debilitating disease.

Halocur, containing the active ingredient Halofuginone, is a key part of this control programme and can be prescribed for oral administration to calves to prevent or treat scour caused by Cryptosporidium parvum.

As regards the absence of coughing in Mervyn’s cattle Mairéad said the well planned and implemented use of Bovipast RSP played a key part in maintaining a high herd health status.

“Joy Crawford and Mervyn McRoberts decided from the outset that their focus must be on disease prevention,” Mairéad explained. “Treating sick calves is not profitable compared to prevention.

“Vaccination of young calves from two weeks of age with Bovilis Bovipast RSP is the key to minimising respiratory diseases in Mervyn’s calves. Bovipast was selected because it is the only vaccine available to protect young stock against pasteurella, Mannheimia haemolytica, and viral pneumonia. Using a Bovipast RSP vaccination programme reduces the need for antibiotics and boosts herd performance.

“Pasteurella and viral pneumonia are among the most common causes of pneumonia in cattle during their first year, which is why ever more farmers include the pasteurella and RSV vaccine in herd health plans on the advice of their vets.”


The visiting milk producers then heard from host Mervyn McRoberts that he is taking part in the voluntary BVD eradication scheme. Using tissue tags to obtain a sample so that all new born calves are tested for the presence of BVD virus is a routine part of the excellent animal husbandry evident on this family farm.

As regards calf rearing Mairéad said success was built on four pillars starting with having the right breed type to suit your farm system.

Then came the basics of stockmanship, ensuring calves have easy access to feed and water. The aim should be to get four litres of colostrum into every calf within that golden hour after birth.

A third pillar on which to build a good calf rearing regime was providing the best possible environment in a clean, deep bed of straw.

“Over the calving season keep an eye on the temperature in the shed and consider providing extra warmth where necessary. This could mean using calf jackets, more bedding and heat lamps or boosting energy levels by extra feeding to maintain growth rates if temperatures at calf level fall below 10 degrees C.

“The fourth and most critical element in the running of a successful calf rearing operation is to learn from experience and make those routine chores tasks done a hundred times a season as simple and easy to do as possible.

“That way your high standards of husbandry will be kept consistent, week in, week out, even on days when the calf house routine comes after a long night calving cows.”

In closing the MSD Animal Health veterinarian reminded farmers to record what happens in the calf house so that problems can be reacted to promptly with the aid of their consulting vet.