▫ Facial eczema season is still in full swing in March in affected areas, so check weekly updates from vets -
▫ Worm levels will be building in most species, so make sure you keep a close eye on them. While older cattle and sheep do build up some immunity, last year’s calves and lambs should be on a drenching regime, while horses and goats will require vigilance all their lives. ▫ Knowing the correct weight of animal is vital. If you can get access to scales and know the correct weight of an animal, you will be able to get a far more accurate dose for your animals. Under-dosing is one of the worst things you can do; it allows worms that are more drench-resistant to live, which then pass on their drench-resistant genetics to a new generation. By constantly under-dosing, you create super worms that will eventually be resistant to all chemicals you may try. ▫ A drench effectiveness test can be done by your vet 10 days after drenching. An effective drench will mean no worm eggs are present in a faecal test, but if there are, it may be a sign that drench resistance is present. Talk to your vet about strategies if this is the case. Sheep
▫ Autumn means quick grass growth, which can mean scours and it will still be warm enough for blowflies to “blow” an animal, so check stock morning and night and address the problem of why the animals are scouring. While worms may be the top suspect, you also need to consider coccidiosis, yersiniosis, high levels of potassium, nitrates and/or sugars in autumn grass.▫ Keep up random checks of mucous membranes for colour. The inside of the eyelid and the gums should be pink; pale pink, white or turning blue and you have a sure sign of worms, possibly the worst kind and the quickest killer – barbers pole.▫ Your grazing rotation now will have a big effect on this year’s spring lambs. Make sure that wherever you are grazing your 2011 spring lambs this summer-autumn is not where ewes will be birthing their lambs this spring, so you avoid leaving a big parasite burden when ewes and newborn lambs will be most vulnerable.▫ Watch rams for lameness and condition if you are putting them out with the girls this month. Sore feet (especially if it rains after a long dry period) can make it very difficult for a ram to lift his weight up onto a ewe, so the numbers fertilised will be lower.Cattle
▫ You’ll know by now whether it’s going to be economic to keep your stock levels at their current level or not, as hay, baleage and silage will now be away for winter. Because autumn is a time of good feed for most farmers, it’s also a good time to think about off-loading any stock you don’t want to carry through winter. ▫ Rain in March will bring on a spurt of grass growth; watch for nitrate poisoning if cattle are out there munching down on the newly green grass, especially if it’s newly sown. Nitrate builds up in the soil during dry, hot summers, then is taken up by plants when they begin to grow after rain. ▫ Symptoms of nitrate poisoning in cattle will occur very quickly, from 30 minutes to four hours after eating and include: rapid/difficult breathing, muscle tremours, staggering, lying down, sleepyness, bluish/chocolate brown mucous membranes. Death comes very quickly so you suspect nitrate poisoning, call your vet immediately. ▫ If you are going to put livestock onto fresh autumn grass, feed them up on hay or another type of forage first, break feed it to them in small amounts through the day, monitor cattle very carefully for the first few hours on new grass, or take a sample of grass to your vet for testing; they will tell you the level of nitrate build-up present in leaf and whether it poses a risk or not. Goats
▫ Checking goats morning and night for signs of worm infestation is all important at this time of the year, particularly with goats, because they never build up any immunity throughout their lifetimes.▫ Check mucous membranes (inside of eyelid, gums) for pinkness, check general attitude (Normal? Depressed?), check breathing rate (10-30 breaths per minute), check for bottlejaw (a deposit of fluid under the jaw that causes the skin to hang down) and obviously check for scouring. While these can be symptoms of other health problems, a parasite infestation should be top of the list, especially during autumn. Pigs
▫ If you don’t have a boar, you can lease the services of one. It’s best to take the sow to the boar (so there are no territory issues). The boar should be the same size as the sow. ▫ Gilts must possess sound legs and feet; pasterns should be strong, sloping to toes of even size. Gilts should be wide through the hindquarters with depth and squareness in the body cavity; ribs should be well sprung. ▫ Behaviour is important. Gilts should be quiet but alert and active. If there is any tendency to be flighty or overly aggressive, they should be disregarded as future breeders.