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John Joyce: Treatment of winter parasites is vital

Independent.ie logo Independent.ie 23/11/2021 John Joyce

Winter feeding is in full swing, with nearly all stock housed over the last month.

Like last year, I will have to decide on the feed ingredients for the different groups of animals.

Pit and round bale silage will make up the major part of the diet, with little straw add in this year.

Good-quality rolled barley will be fed to the beef cattle and weanlings and the beef cattle with be moved onto a finishing ration in mid-January.

For the first time last year, I bought some beet for feeding — a mixture of fodder and sugar beet. I probably won’t bother with it this year as I have a lot of silage in the yard.

Only a small number of the weanlings had been weaned before housing. This is a very stressful time in their life. It is their first winter and they’re not used to the surrounding of the sheds.

I am using the same technology as I have being using for the past number of years.

All cows and calves are housed in the same shed to start with and have been penned adjacent to each other across the passage before being moved to different sheds. I have gone a step further this year and penned them in every second pen.

The weanlings tend to be remarkably quiet once they get used to the silage and meal; some even suckle through the gate for a few days. The cows tend to be less vocal once they can see the calf, and then everybody wins as it is less stressful for me.

These weanlings will be observed closely over the next few weeks and any that seem off form will be treated immediately.

At this time of year I always put big effort into the treatment of the winter parasites.

There is little point in trying to make good-quality silage and feeding expensive concentrates only to reverse the gains if the animals has a fluke, lice or lungworm problem.

All this dosing sounds like an added cost, but in reality it is only the price of one bag of meal per animal when you add up everything.

All animals will be treated over the next four to six weeks. Fluke would be at the adult or mature stage by this time.

Some parts of the farm are wet so I always place emphasis on the fluke programme. This is a great time of the year to control it because the animals are not picking up more eggs.

I use a product called Endofluke. The active ingredient is triclabendazole and covers all stages of fluke. One might say that it was a dry grazing season, but are these the years that we graze the wetter areas or corner for longer?

I used the hook drench gun like I have for the past number of years and find it a useful tool, but as labour gets increasingly hard to source, I might have to rethink and change to injectables or a pour-on product.

All the animals will be dosed with the same product including the suckler cows, weanlings and beef cattle.

In addition, the male beef animals and the in-calf heifers will be dosed with Levafas Diamond to cover for rumen fluke.

These animals were grazing on an area of ground where stomach fluke has caused us problems in the past.

The weanlings were treated for lungworm before they were housed and have been vaccinated for Ibr and with the product Bovipast.

I may dose them for stomach worms as they were grazing very tight to the ground with their mothers before housing.

The final parasite to control will be lice. It will probably be a big problem this year, given the mild weather over the past few weeks. It can be a hard one to control.

Animals are in such close contact in the sheds that it spreads very easily. I have used different products over the years with limited success.

For the past two years I have shaved the backs and the tails of the cattle. This seems to work very well for the lice problem and also for a few other issues.

It keeps the cattle cooler so there are fewer pneumonia cases and the animals are a lot cleaner in the sheds and for calving.

John Joyce farms at Carrigahorig, Nenagh, Co Tipperary

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