With over ten thousand years of sheep farming behind us, it’s no surprise that our ovine friends have been the subject of more than a few falsehoods over the years. This article aims to correct a few of those mistruths and replace them with some fascinating facts that even the most seasoned sheep farmer may not have heard of.
These days everyone is aware that their data has value. What we do, where we go, our preferences: these are valuable commodities that companies are willing to pay large amounts of money for. While the value of data is well understood by industries, such as retail or tech, is the sheep farming industry using its own data to its full potential?
African Swine Fever (ASF) is probably the notifiable disease which is causing the most sleepless nights across the pig industry at the moment; the main reason being that the virus has been moving from east to west across Europe.
In the UK, 81% of dairy farmers identify their herds as All Year Round (AYR) calving1 despite block calving shown to be more cost beneficial for some enterprises. Evidence shows spring block calving herds can produce milk for lower input costs than an AYR herd, saving around 2.1-2.4 pence per litre (ppL)1
Block calving can have financial benefits compared to all year round (AYR) calving herds when it is managed correctly. However, for block calving to be economical, 90% of your herd needs to calve in six weeks and your entire herd in 12 weeks.
Sheep farming isn’t just about what goes on at the farm. To become a successful sheep farmer it’s vital that you get out there and learn from others in the industry; upskilling, sharing knowledge and getting fresh insight on the trade.
If ever there was a year when investing in your stock to get the maximum return is going to be important, then 2018/19 is the one. With feed costs up by about 30% on the year, and some farmers already buffer feeding winter forage, there are things you can do to maximise production efficiency.
Protecting your dairy heifer calves from respiratory disease is vital when considering the future productivity of your herd. The foundation of every calf’s lifetime performance begins at birth. A calf that doesn’t grow efficiently in the first few weeks of life may never catch-up.
There are multiple things that can cause a pig to go lame: It could be injured from riding, injured from fighting, or it may have an infected joint. But those causes often just affect an individual pig. There’s another cause of lameness, a bacteria called Mycoplasma hyosynoviae, which is endemic in the UK pig herd, and commonly causes widespread lameness in pigs.
Tail biting is one of the most frustrating things a pig farmer has to deal with: It damages pig welfare and profits, and it can be infuriatingly difficult to control! So to understand how best to control it we need to try and understand why it occurs..
Farming is centuries old. But that’s no reason to not be excited about its future. Agriculture is an ever-changing industry. It’s necessary to engage with new discoveries, new initiatives and new ideas to stay on top of your business and inspire the farmers of tomorrow.
Do you know your gelts from your gimmers? Do you know how to dag, dock and graft? Sheep farming is an industry that’s present all over the world and has a history that spreads back thousands of years. From the old terms to the new, you can be forgiven for sometimes running into a word in the business that leaves you a little stumped. Here’s a glossary to help decipher the terms regularly found in sheep farming.
Most farmers are quite robust characters; they have to be in order to survive the modern day pressures and stresses of farming. The physical nature of the job also means most farmers will have a dodgy back, or a sore hip, or a tender knee.
Social media is not just fantastic for sharing insight and networking within the industry, it also helps to raise the profile of the job beyond the confines of those who work in agriculture. Thankfully there are plenty of users on Twitter who are doing a great job advocating the sheep farming industry through thought-provoking and engaging content. Here are a few of our favourites.
Acute fluke in sheep is expected to be a risk earlier this summer following the wet winter. This makes a mid-summer treatment vital to prevent significant losses .
Despite the brief cold snap seen at the start of the year, it is expected the mud snail, which is the fluke’s intermediate host, will have thrived in the damp and wet conditions. This means there will be a build-up of infective metacercariae on many pastures, which develop into immature fluke when ingested. As a result, it is expected that there will be an earlier risk of immature fluke in grazing sheep this year, which can lead to death when not treated.
Coccidiosis is caused by Protozoa. A Protozoa is a very small parasite which is only made of a single cell. There are lots of different types of Protozoa; the one which causes Coccidiosis in cattle is called Eimeria. There are also lots of types of Eimeria and you may find up to 12 different species in cattle. Coccidiosis is most often seen in calves between 1-2 months of life, but it can affect them up to 1 year of age.
Coccidiosis is caused by a very small parasite called Protozoa. A Protozoa is only made of a single cell. There are lots of different types of Protozoa; the one which causes Coccidiosis in sheep is called Eimeria. You may find up to 15 different species of Eimeria in lambs.
Toxoplasma is not a fussy parasite: it will happily infect any warm-blooded animal, even humans! In fact one third of the human population have toxoplasma cysts in their body. Most infected animals and people show little reaction to being infected, but it can cause serious problems in pregnant sheep, goats and women.
With the global demand for lamb increasing by a potential two and a half million tonnes by 2020, UK sheep farmers have to be in a position to take a share of this opportunity. Improved lamb survival and ensuring there is a no stragglers policy will obviously aid with this. There is, however, a large potential improvement by targeting ewe fertility to ensure a consistent lamb crop
Pigs are naked, they have little hair and only some fat to keep them warm. So put yourselves in their position, after all without clothes we are similarly insulated (no comments on individual hairiness or personal P2 levels please!). Basically would you be comfortable (thermally!) in the pig housing without any clothing on to trap your body heat? If the answer is no, you might need to address the building management.
Glässers Disease can be found up the nose of most pigs, it’s caused by a bacterium called Haemophilus parasuis (HPS). HPS doesn’t normally cause any problems until the pigs are stressed. The classic stress is a sudden change in temperature, and this is why you often see Glässers Disease in the autumn when you have the first frosts, or in the spring when you get warm days followed by chilly nights.
Sheep farmers are being urged to monitor Nematodirus risks on their farm with hatching expected to start within the next week.
Warm spring weather has finally arrived and will bring with it a mass hatch of the infective larval stage of Nematodirus. These will have overwintered on pastures waiting for temperatures to regularly exceed 10oC
With no two years the same when it comes to parasite activity, farmers need to be aware of what is happening on their farm and take appropriate action based on the risk, rather than the time of year in order to prevent costly production losses.
There are four pillars of PRRS control. You must apply all four in order to successfully control PRRS. In this section, we talk about herd management and how, if done properly, it can reduce the risk of PRRS and therefore increase productivity!
Buying in animals from multiple sources can pose a disease risk. For calves originating from herds in a recognised health scheme some important information will be known, but not necessarily the whole picture and therefore all the diseases they may be carrying.
The spring rise is the relaxation of immunity around lambing. It allows ewe egg output to increase from overwintered worms, which contaminate the pastures and affects lambs.
Controlling the spring rise is an important part of parasite management in a flock.
Without a quarantine procedure, you risk infecting your flock with resistant parasites and other diseases. What this could do to your profits doesn’t bear thinking about. Here’s how to set up a simple, effective quarantine process for new or returning sheep.
Quarantining your sheep is a staple for this time of year. It's so easy for diseases like worm, scab and other diseases to get in and out of your flock, that isolating incoming and returning stock could really benefit your farm.
A ram’s health and virility are closely linked. When your rams are healthy and productive, your entire business, and bottom line, reaps the benefits. Here’s how to make tupping season feel less like a lottery.
Recent research has found the link between infection during the dry cow period and subsequent clinical mastitis and elevated somatic cell counts (SCC) in early lactation. We have created a list of 10 steps that will help you make the necessary changes to your dry cow management process.
When vets aren’t specialised in pigs, the diseases of our porky friends are quickly forgotten about after University. Erysipelas is often the exception; but why do they still recall Erysipelas? Because everyone remembers that picture of a pig with Diamonds on its skin! It’s a pretty classic sign that vets, agricultural students and pig stockmen are all taught about – the raised red lesions, often in the shape of a diamond that you see on the skin of a pig which has Erysipelas. Now I hate to disappoint those of you that remember that picture, but the lesions aren’t always diamond shape: sometimes they are round, randomly shaped, or even just blotches. And to disappoint you further you can have Erysipelas issues without seeing skin lesions.
When it comes to your flock, you don’t need us to tell you that healthier pregnancies tend to result in healthier profits. Here are four tried and tested methods for improving ewe fertility to ensure a successful lambing season.
Farming can be incredibly unpredictable. That’s no secret. Yet if something unexpected left you struggling financially, wouldn’t it be reassuring to know that help was available? To raise awareness of their grants, a leading farming charity is asking farmers like you to join them in their upcoming campaign – the Farmhouse Breakfast.
As an industry we are obsessed with figures: Pigs weaned per sow per year, Replacement Rates, Farrowing Rates, Mortality, Average Daily Gain (ADG) etc. But the most financially important of these figures, if you finish your pigs, is Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR).
As the year progresses, it’s time to start thinking about the autumn parasite challenges, we’ve seen some very high worm egg counts this year which could continue into the tupping season. Continuation of the current warm, wet weather could result in us seeing an earlier fluke challenge too.
Boar Taint is a controversial subject. Some people say it is not an issue at all, and others say it is the biggest challenge to meat quality. Dr Laura Hancox shares a recent experience at the Pigs 2022 conference where sensory perception is indeed a tale of two halves.
Recently, along with some Zoetis colleagues, I had the opportunity to make an educational trip to Mid-West Montana, USA to find out more about their beef herd fertility management systems. We were hosted by Jason and Jody Swanz from Snowy Mountain Cattle Co. near Judith Gap who run around 550 Angus breeding cows on their ranch.
Results from farms involved in the Zoetis Parasite Watch scheme shows that areas which have seen warm and dry weather followed by sudden wet weather, such as South West Scotland and Wales have seen a rise in worm egg counts.
The piglet is a blank canvas ready to be populated. We want the piglet to get “Friendly Bacteria” (as the yoghurt adverts say!), but if the “Bad Bacteria” get in before the “Friendly Bacteria” then you get diarrhoea. See how you can prevent this.
Flies aren’t just a nuisance, they also carry diseases, bite and irritate your flock for much of the year. But here's the good news; you can stop them from taking a bite out of your farm’s profits.Take a look at our infographic to learn why you should tackle flies early and how to do it.
Sheep farmers are being advised to find out what the worm challenge is on their farm after farms across the country reported mixed infestations from faecal egg counts. Read more on how Parasite Watch is continuing to give informed choices to farms across the UK.
By the time you notice cattle or sheep being troubled by flies, a population explosion is already taking place! Discover how you can take action to prevent flies impacting your herd, your flock and you!
Sheep farmers can now see first-hand the cost of using the wrong wormer on their farm thanks to a free app and online tool. The Sheep Drench Cost Calculator will help farmers, in conjunction with their advisors, decide which wormers to use on their farm.
After weaning, a pig’s guts are in a very delicate balancing act. The stress of weaning makes their intestines more “leaky” letting toxins in and leaking fluid out. Finding the most suitable balance can be tricky, Laura Hancox explains more.
The Parasite Watch scheme run by Zoetis, is now in its second year. The 18 farms involved in the scheme will have faecal samples taken every two weeks, which will help detect major stomach worms and Nematodirus.
For most areas of the UK, feedback suggests that last year was one with low to moderate roundworm burdens. Where this was identified using good diagnostics, economies from using fewer wormer treatments were possible with manageable risk rather than a fingers crossed approach.
Weaning is commonly thought to be the most stressful event in the life of a pig, so what steps can you take to minimise piglet stress at weaning? And how can you reduce the chances of a costly check in growth?
It’s easy to forget the potential losses from disease when disease control programmes are working. And that’s when it can be tempting to look at reducing costs by removing the cost of vaccines for diseases you’re no longer seeing. Probably because the vaccines are working! So when you’re deciding whether or not to take that gamble you need to look again at what that gamble is.
Lamb losses are detrimental to farm profits. Most occur during pregnancy, or in the first week of life and there are common culprits. The reasons for loss should be monitored and recorded, to target reductions up to the point of sale.
Fertility management can lead to improved welfare and output in cattle. At our Northern Ireland event, Professor David Patterson inspires vets around building a sustainable industry and taking beef fertility management to the next level.
Bovine Respiratory disease (also known as pneumonia) is a major problem of young stock, causing significant loss and compromising animal welfare. Exposure to Mycoplasma bovis increases the risk of calves being treated for respiratory disease, and Mycoplasma bovis is not uncommonly isolated from the lungs of pneumonic calves so it’s important when controlling youngstock respiratory disease that we understand the role of Mycoplasma bovis.
Clostridial diseases have been a livestock issue for hundreds of years and affect species all around the world. Unfortunately, sudden death is often the first sign a farmer will see that clostridia are present. Find out which are the most common clostridia and how to vaccinate against them.
Lice are dependent on a host for their survival. When your sheep become the host, lice can spread quickly and rapidly between them. They irritate a sheep’s skin and can lead to weight loss, but also reduce the value of the wool. If you want to successfully treat them, accurate diagnosis is vital.
As fallen leaves decay and the temperature drops, you’ll know that farming livestock becomes more labour intensive. Before winter hits it pays to plan ahead to take special care of your youngstock’s feeding regime. Looking after your heifers is the key to the future of your business.
Good growth rates and productivity results in a healthy profit. However, the cost of finishing lambs can sometimes outweigh the financial gain. This means that on some occasions sheep farmers are better off to sell lambs as stores and not finish them on their farm. Find out how to weigh up the pros and cons of selling and rearing stores.
The best price in the world is free, isn’t it? And - correct us if we’re wrong - but getting free goodies for stuff you’re already doing is an even sweeter deal. This stuff we speak of? Preparing to move your cows indoors for the winter.
In Part 1 of our blog on winter vaccination we covered the general principles of vaccination, including vaccine choice and correct storage and handling. In Part 2 we will look in more detail at vaccination protocols using the example of vaccination against bovine respiratory disease (BRD).
If new or returning sheep are not quarantined it is not only a disease risk but can also waste your time and money. Resistant worms are then much more likely to be introduced to your flock with incoming animals and your usual treatments may not kill them.
Rather than wait to see how your ram performs at tupping time, give him a ram MOT beforehand. A surprisingly high number of rams that appear to be healthy experience problems during the mating season. Yet many of these issues can be ironed out in advance.
In our previous blog on preparing for winter housing we looked at ventilation and moisture management. In this follow on blog we’ll discuss in more detail two other key considerations when looking at building function: wind speed (draughts) and temperature.
Fluke in sheep is a threat to more than an individual farm. This parasitic worm is extremely well adapted and can be deadly, but the wider impact of infection could cost the UK agricultural industry up to £300m every year.
As summer draws to a close and you start planning for winter housing the question you need to ask is ‘are my buildings fit for purpose’? That’s fit for the purpose of housing cattle, and fit for the age of cattle intended to be housed.
Efficient sheep production relies on effective resistance management. Until this is part of a robust flock plan; money is being wasted all over the country. The reality is that most, if not all, UK sheep farms will already have some worms that carry resistance genes affecting production.
We all appreciate the transition into housing is a risky time for first grazing season animals, there are so many things to consider; dietary change, weaning, grouping, respiratory disease, and how to control parasites specifically fluke and worms.
If you’re a farmer, vet or animal health advisor working in the sheep farming industry the new Zoetis STARTECT® website is for you. The site is full of materials to help you in the fight against worm resistance, including educational videos, and useful information on the benefits of dual active wormers. All of the reference materials and advice is free to access.
Winter may seem a long way away, but to coin a phrase ‘winter IS coming’ so start planning early and see if you can qualify for the SureCalf programme. Now is the time to check that sheds are fit for purpose, possibly looking to modify any in which problems may have occurred last winter and pre-housing treatments or vaccinations need to be administered in time to ensure they will be fully effective by the predicted housing date – this is where SureCalf comes in.
Flies are not only an annoyance to your flock; they also spread diseases and cost you money. Often most types of fly arrive at the same time every year, which means you could outsmart them. Find out which flies are prevalent when and how to best keep these pests under control.
Whilst we all enjoy the Great British Summer, our team made the journey to attend the National Sheep Association’s NSA Sheep 2016 event at the three counties show ground in Worcestershire. With a multitude of stands filled with things from feed to shearers, weighing equipment to drenches – it was always going to be a fantastic day for attendees. This was the case for our team on the Zoetis stand as our team spoke to so many hundreds of farmers throughout the day, mainly about our dual active Knockout drench: STARTECT.
If you think ahead for a minute to the time when most of this year's lamb crop will have been sold, what are the chances that you'll have a small but embarrassing group of stragglers that refuse to reach saleable condition?
Drying off cows using the “best practice” technique means that they are at less risk of post infusion infection and that the antibiotic dry cow tube and teat sealant are going to work as well as possible for optimum results.
Hello all and welcome to the Livestock Farming blog. This post is the final part of a 3-part series about #Lambing16, with our guest sheep farmers Jodi, James, Gillian & Ian, and Rachel & Shaun who are farmers from various areas of the UK. This final post of the series is about the farmers looking forward to #Lambing17 and what they will do differently given what they’ve learned.
This post is the second part of our 3-part series about #Lambing16. Sharing their experiences, we have Jodi, James, Gillian & Ian, and Rachel & Shaun. This week’s post is a rollercoaster of emotions with the shepherds and shepherdesses sharing their best and worst moments of #Lambing16.
Hello and a very warm welcome to our Pig Farming section of the Livestock Farming blog. This is a space for the pig farming community in the UK to keep up to date with industry news, trends and insights.
By the time you notice cattle or sheep being troubled by flies, a population explosion is already taking place. However, it's easy and cheap to make some fly traps and then keep an eye on them every few days for an early warning that fly numbers are on the rise.
This post is one of a 3-part series about #Lambing16, with sheep farmers from around the UK sharing their stories and experiences. As guests we have Jodi, James, Gillian & Ian, and Rachel & Shaun who are farmers from various areas of the UK – including a remotes island!
For the past few weeks, we’ve been asking farmers from all over the UK to send us their favourite spring photos and show us what #springonthefarm means to them. We’ve had some fantastic entries, and our judging panel has selected a shortlist of five of the very best.
The first treatment decision prompted by Parasite Watch for Alan Smellie near Peebles was to do nothing at all. On account of the mild wet winter and good number of ewes spending time on known high fluke risk ground, his 1,200 ewes were tested for liver fluke before lambing.
As a farmer, you already know what makes your business tick. You don’t need us to tell you that optimising the value of each animal is the key to a successful business. But did you know the importance of the first three months in terms of maximising lifetime performance of your dairy-bred reared calves?
If you don’t have tickets yet for the 2016 TotalDairy Seminar, you’re in with the wrong herd. A longstanding and popular event, TotalDairy Seminar routinely attracts renowned farming experts from all over the world.
Three very well attended suckler beef farm walks hosting a total of 310 farmers on the use of synchronisation and AI were held at the end of March in Northern Ireland. The first meeting was held in County Fermanagh at Stephen Maguire’s farm.
The sudden death of livestock is every farmers’ worst fear. Not only is it upsetting and stressful, it’s also extremely costly. Yet productive animals are lost to Clostridial diseases on a daily basis. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way.
For any business under financial pressure from declining returns, its good practice to look at the cost base and see where efficiencies can be made. However any such cost stripping needs to take into account the potential impact of that action. For livestock farmers, if the result is a reduction in animal productivity the result could be a net financial loss! Such decisions therefore need to be carefully thought through.
All beef farmers want to optimise the value of their herds in a healthy, sustainable way. Did you know that one way of doing this is through putting plans in place to protect the respiratory health of your calves?
Parasitic gastro-enteritis (PGE) (worm scours) will affect all lambs to a greater or lesser degree and as such are a key concern for sheep farmers everywhere. It can be caused by many different worm species, but the two most important in the UK are Teladorsagia circumcincta and Nematodirus battus.
The performance of your dairy heifers can make all the difference to the profitability of your herd. We have visualised the latest research on keeping heifer calves happy, healthy and as profitable as possible.
Given the huge variation and local unpredictability of weather seen across the country this winter, it will be hard to predict the affect this may have had on parasite survival rates; however 2016 plays out it would be hard to believe that the challenge will be as low as it was in 2015.
2015 was a great year for farmers. Get complacent though and you will quickly discover the severe parasite threat that the UK can expect for 2016. Check the news here to see how Zoetis will keep you up-to-date.