Vital importance of the 'three Qs'
Preparation is key for lambing and calving. Castle Vets’ newest addition tells reporter Alex Metcalfe about what farmers can do for their lambs and calves as spring makes its presence felt.
THE old adage of “prevention is better than cure” is a familiar one to dale farming folk. However, its significance has not diminished and new face at Castle Vets, Barry Cooper, tells me how pre-emptive preventative measures are just as important as ever for the lambing and calving period.
“Especially with the way the winter has been, it’s getting the housing right and getting everything set up properly,” he says.
“If you get the set up right and the condition of the cow or ewe right in the pre-lambing and calving period then obviously it helps to prevent problems before they occur.
“We want to lean towards prevention rather than treatment – we would rather people spend time and money on us in an advisory role getting things right to avoid problems rather than have to call us in when they are suffering losses.”
By studying the metabolic profiles of cows and ewes through blood sampling, vets can help make sure livestock are in good health now and for the future.
Timing this sampling right allows trace element levels to be assessed reliably so when a calf or lamb is born, the groundwork is already in place for a successful birth and start to life.
The next challenge comes with arrival.
Mr Cooper says: “The next big pinch point is the birth itself and immediate colostrum management.
“With newborns, it’s back to the importance of getting colostrum into them as soon as possible. Ideally we’re looking to get ten per cent of their body weight into them within the first few hours of life.
“This is because the gut barrier starts to develop it and stops the absorption of antibodies after the first feed or the first six hours of life.
“So you need to get in as much as possible as early as possible and then it’s a case of your three Qs.”
The “three Qs” refers to getting a good quantity of high quality colostrum into newborns quickly, and is drilled home by professionals at every opportunity.
Mr Cooper also explains how some vaccinations, such as Rotavec Corona, rely entirely on ensuring this successful delivery of colostrum.
“We vaccinate the cow and the calves get the protection through the colostrum – but if they are not getting enough good quality colostrum at the right time people are spending the money on vaccine, yet it is not having any effect on the target animals – so it’s quite financially important.”
Mr Cooper says: “The best way to evaluate colostral transfer is by blood testing the target animals, the calves, between 1-8 days of age.
“Because we are actually testing your calf, it takes into account all three Qs – it’s easy to look in the bucket for quantity and perhaps colour and consistency, however, that is far less accurate.
“If you are actually putting figures down, you can make alterations to the system and reliably monitor the outcomes.
“For example, people are tempted to go for the middle of the range or cheaper end of colostrum/milk replacers however, it may be that by monitoring blood results and growth rates on your farm more expensive alternatives may prove more profitable.”
A greater awareness of young stock management is something Mr Cooper believes is hitting home with all farmers.
Small changes in early life or pre-birth can reap rewards in terms of less disease and better productivity leading to a far greater lifetime profitability.
“It’s not just a case of treating the sick animal – it’s working with the farmer to make the farm as profitable and efficient as possible.”
Mr Cooper has returned to his native Teesdale to work in the area and be more involved in the family farm in Bowes alongside his brothers.
He added: “I went away and studied at Bristol and I’ve been working for Paragon in Carlisle as a farm animal vet for the last four years. I’m happy to be back in the area – I know quite a few people here. The plan is to settle here.”