A high herd health status is important to ensure that returns from the dairy herd are maximised, but when you are also selling high genetic merit heifers and selling bulls to AI companies then health status is vital.
The Ards herd of H. Patton and Sons at Newtownards is renowned for its leading commercial traits combined with high genetic merit and excellent management.
Maintaining this standard in a 300 cow herd needs constant attention to detail and one of the hidden aspects that can often affect production and fertility is Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR).
Wilson Patton explains: “IBR does not always attract attention because it is just like the Herpes virus that causes cold sores in humans. It can live in the herd and only emerge at times of stress.
“The problem is that while it is present, these animals are infecting others, especially young heifers coming into the herd which have not been exposed to the virus. It is impacting on herd performance and fertility.”
Calves born in the Ards herd are removed from their dams at birth to ensure no infection is transferred at this crucial stage. The calves are reared in hutches until they are 10 weeks old.
They receive Rispoval® IntraNasal at 6 weeks in order to protect them from the most common viruses (BRSv and Pi3v) involved in calf pneumonia prior to the stress of grouping which occurs at 10 weeks of age.
At 12 to 13 months of age the Pattons use Live IBR vaccination (Rispoval® IBR Marker Live) to protect young stock against this disease, and Inactivated IBR vaccine (Rispoval® IBR Marker Inactivated) in the dairy herd to help reduce the risk of carrier cows shedding the virus.
Young stock receive two intramuscular doses of live vaccine 3 to 5 weeks apart followed by Rispoval® IBR Marker Inactivated given 1 to 6 months later to provide 12 months immunity.
Thereafter single booster vaccinations of Rispoval® IBR Marker Inactivated are used annually for the cows.
The Pattons use two doses of Rispoval® IBR Marker Live, which will give a very robust protection early on in life.
Many farmers use a single dose start followed by Rispoval® IBR Marker Inactivated 1 to 6 months later which is licensed to provide 12 months immunity.
Veterinary surgeon, Charles Orr from Jubilee Veterinary Clinic who oversees the IBR control programme in the Ards herd said: “IBR occurs in a large percentage of dairy herds in Northern Ireland –once an animal has been infected it becomes a carrier for the rest of its life. So it is vital to ensure that the disease is kept under control as it can progress to respiratory problems and infertility.”
Aurelie Moralis, veterinary surgeon with Zoetis explains: “The majority of dairy herds in the UK are endemically infected, with adult cows being latent carriers of infection and in many dairy herds, calves are removed from dairy cows very shortly after birth and reared separately.
“Therefore they may remain ‘clean’ or ‘naïve’ throughout the rearing and first breeding season until they mix with the lactating cows after 1st calving.
“This is a very stressful time for dairy heifers, which makes them susceptible to disease if the virus is endemic in the herd. The common disease pattern is that heifers become infected when they enter the milking herd. ”
She emphasises that a good starting point to control IBR in the dairy herd would be to establish the disease status. This can be done through bulk milk antibody testing, targeted blood or milk sampling. Dairy farmers should then work with their veterinary surgeon to formulate an eradication/accreditation programme to protect the herd.
She added “There is a lot at stake in the Ards herd if management and disease control are not first class. This 300 cow herd has 9000 litres sold per cow at 3.9% butterfat and 3.22% protein annually. In addition surplus heifers command leading prices at sales while 12 bulls have been sold to AI companies in the past 18 months. ”
Wilson Patton commented “In our breeding programme economic traits are vital but there is no point in breeding for these if they are not fully realised by management and disease control. Recent milk prices have put even more emphasis on these aspects.”