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  • Warm weather warning

    28 Feb 2019

    With the UK having broken records for the warmest winters day for over 20 years this week, the BBC Weather Centre has reported that it is likely to be one of the warmest Februaries since records began back in 1878. Though there is still plenty of time for the weather to change, the early signs of spring, from migrating birds arriving early, to the trees coming into bud and the grass starting to grow, do not always mean good news to our livestock out in the fields.

    Over fat ewes

    Many ewes have come through the winter in too good a condition and we’ve been speaking to many farmers who are concerned about over fat ewes and how to avoid twin lamb disease at lambing. With a few weeks left before lambing (at least in some parts of the country)- there is still time to address body condition of the ewes, and to adjust nutrition accordingly.

    Twin lamb is effectively an acute energy (glucose) shortage brought on by the massive, rapid increase in energy demanded by multiple foetuses in the weeks immediately prior to lambing. Thin ewes suffer simply by running out of energy reserves, but fat ewes effectively poison themselves by the rapid mobilisation of back fat at a rate far greater than their liver can cope with. The result is the generation of toxic ketones which further exacerbate the problem by dropping dry matter intake. The issue can spiral out of control rapidly with ewes going off their legs and a high mortality if not treated in time.

    The key with fat ewes is to understand the huge energy reserve potentially available on her back, and planning how to utilise it most effectively. Quality protein is essential. Back fat is pure carbohydrate, and when broken down in the liver creates glucose; the fat ewe needs quality protein to balance this release of carbohydrate. And this also means that by balancing with high quality protein, the ewes do not need to be overfed. Instead, a reduced supply of quality feed is more effective than high volumes of low density feed for these ewes.

    Relying on the fat ewe to survive on forage alone is a recipe for disaster. She needs access to a constant supply of both quality feed and forage to protect against sudden changes in weather which often precipitate a sudden release of fat, and the onset of twin lamb. This is where feed blocks and molassed feed licks play such an important role. By providing a constantly available source of energy, proteins and trace elements, these free-access feeds allow the at-risk ewe to consume additional energy at the time of need.

    So, if you are looking at ewes which are in too good condition, there is still time to help prevent twin lamb. Despite being fat, they should now be receiving low levels of high quality feed to get the rumen bugs acclimatised to the feed ingredients. By providing high quality by-pass protein it is possible to make use of this fat safely and reduce body condition in the weeks prior to lambing. Providing b-vitamins, cobalt and UDP will all help liver function, and free access energy licks will help protect against sudden changes in weather. As always, it is best to consult with your vet and feed specialist to plan an effective programme for your farm.

    Our Energyze Vitality bucket contains key minerals to aid in the prevention of twin lamb disease and gives both ewe and lamb essential nutritional support:

    • Propylene Glycol
    • Choline
    • Mannans
    • High Quality DUP



    Early turn out along with the flush of spring grass will also mean an increased staggers risk.  Increases in the occurrences of the disease in spring are as a result of rapidly growing grasses which are low in magnesium. It is important to ensure the best possible magnesium supplement is made available, especially to animals at increased risk, e.g. lactating or older cows. We have a range of buckets and blocks available with the highest availability mag sources, and it is important to be aware of this risk in the current conditions. Your Harbro specialist will be able to advise on the best approach for your conditions on farm.

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  • Spring planning

    28 Jan 2019

    Spring planning by Hugh Thomson

    With the festive period laid past for another year, the joys of spring swiftly follow… lambs, calves and sleep deprivation; before we know it livestock farms across the north will be like scenes from Zombie Apocalypse where we no longer speak to each other, we just grunt! The on-call phone will ring too often and my wife will learn one or two more swear words. But looking ahead for most of us, it is simply anticipation and excitement to see what your favourite beast can produce and pray that it does not end in disappointment.

    As a result, I find this time of year is the ideal time to plan out your “Spring strategy”… by the time the decision-making rolls round, you are no longer in a fit state to be rational or at times of sound mind. How will we manage the first cow to calve? Have we a pen set up? How is the drug cabinet looking? Is the calving jack clean? Did we clean the lambing pens down after last year? How will we split the night checks? Do we have enough staff….?  Never!... but we must get on with it anyway…

    Much of this will be floating around your head but it’s always a good idea to share it with others. A formal Health Plan might contain such information. It might not be the bible that one reaches for last thing at night but it is something that should be revisited. What went well last year? What didn’t work? Sometimes an hour with your vet can be invaluable at discussing the plan and whilst they are on farm it is always worth thinking about supplies. Having everything you need close at hand, and in working order, could be the difference between life and death. I have an old Harbro mineral tub full of the necessaries for calving and lambing time and what I deem to be essential.

    1. Disinfectant: Iodine or Hibiscrub are very handy for dipping navels or cleaning down feeding tubes/ bottles after use. Too often disease outbreaks are spread by humans, not livestock. You can very easily give watery mouth to every lamb that you stomach tube if the tube is not thoroughly cleaned and disinfected after use. In the same vein its worth having access to hot water for the same reason so there might still be time to get the plumber round to rig up a hot water tank in the shed.
    2. Antibiotic Blue Spray- there are plenty of open wounds or sores at this time of year that benefit from the blue spray treatment, or maybe even time to tackle the lame ewe before she goes out the grass.
    3. Obstetrical lubricant- a traumatic birth will reduce the vigour of the calf or lamb. The use of lube is kinder on the mother and in some cases will contain disinfection to reduce contamination if you have to intervene or help with any tighter squeezes.
    4. Calving/ Lambing ropes- as above, ensure these are washed and disinfected after use. It is worth having a spare pair handy in case of a losing them in the straw. I like a ‘left’ and ‘right’ pair… if you put the red rope on the right leg it will help when you’re attaching the calving jack that you’re the right way round.
    5. Calcium/ Magnesium/ Glucose- often in cases of prolonged labour and in older cows post calving, calcium levels can need to be topped up. Low calcium can affect ewes pre-lambing whereas it tends to affect cows post calving. Calcium has a key role in normal uterine involution and rumen function so is crucial to balance for post-partum convalescence. Down cows can often benefit from calcium but the cow is very efficient at regulating blood calcium levels so generally once the cow has received two bottles of 40% calcium over a short time they are not able to utilise any additional calcium given. If weak lambs are placed into a warming box they should either be stomach tubed or given intra-abdominal glucose first to ensure energy is available before they are warmed and their metabolic rate is increased.
    6. Antibiotic- a broad spectrum antibiotic Is useful to have for prolonged assisted lambings or calvings, retained membranes or similar issues. We should be mindful of reducing our usage of antibiotics in general and certainly some in particular, so speak to your vet about which antibiotics that you should have on hand as they will likely be required. Ensure you have a good selection of syringes and needles handy and always check the dose of the product you are using at least once.
    7. Anti-inflammatory drugs- there is a lot of research looking at the value of anti-inflammatories in cattle post-treatment. Increased feed intakes post disbudding is well documented and the same can be said for convalescence post mastitis and after a long or difficult calving. There is real value in using these drugs in the first instance following disease, pain and/ or inflammation. Anti-inflammatory drugs are probably still underused and antibiotics considered the priority but the opposite may be true.
    8. Arm Length gloves-always think hygiene when assisting, gloves can make manipulation more difficult but are a good discipline so wear them when you can.
    9. Thermometer- a high temperature (>39.3oC) can be the first sign of disease such as metritis or respiratory disease. Low temperatures can be associated with low calcium, toxic mastitis or internal blood loss, so it is a quick and easy test that can reveal something isn’t right.
    10. Feeding tubes and bottles- it is likely that the use of these will be essential but ensure they are cleaned and disinfected thoroughly after use, including the teat. Milk is a great growth medium for bacterial growth.
    11. Colostrum substitute-generally you get what you pay for. Mothers’ colostrum remains the gold standard so if a calf or lamb is unable to suckle within 3-6 hours then intervention is required so facilities to strip a cow are advisable, calving gate or squeeze crate for example. A cheap measuring jug and whisk will ensure it is made up to the right quantity and it is also important to mix it well.
    12. Marker spray-with sleep at a premium your memory won’t be as sharp as usual so any animal receiving treatments should be marked. Ewes losing lambs or experiencing difficulties at lambing time may be better marked for future culling.
    13. Notebook/ diary-as above, keep a note of things so you can refer back, disease rates etc can be looked at out of season. I tend to use the notes section on my phone or take a photo so I can have something to refer back to if required.
    14. Halter/ rope
    15. Head torch-most drama usually occurs at night.
    16. Magic wand- for when things get really dark.
    17. Handcream-look after your hands.
    18. Haribo or similar- it is not just the stock that need sugar sometimes (maybe best to keep these in a safe place away from the above!)

    Lastly, a sense of humour goes a long way. Sh*t does happen but one thing for sure is it will happen to everyone else too. Before you know it we’ll be chasing new life away to green fields… good luck.


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  • Invergold - distillers wet maize grain

    22 Jan 2019

    We are delighted to have signed an exclusive long term contract with Whyte & Mackay Distilleries to take the entire supply of their Distillers Wet Maize Grain – a co-product from the distillery process manufactured in the production of whisky at their Invergordon site. We have branded the product ‘Invergold’ – which references the source and the quality of the product from the award winning Distiller, as well as highlighting its nutritional benefits.Coupled with an existing long term contract for draff from Whyte & Mackay, this latest partnership between the two companies, dating back over 30 years, extends its provision of moist feeds to 60,000 tonnes + p/a.

    he product will be available from February to April 2019, but is subject to availability as there has already been a huge amount of interest shown within the industry. A larger supply will become available from October 2019 ahead of the winter season. Early orders are currently being taken and we would advise anyone interested in the product to call early to avoid disappointment.

    Robb Milne, Head of Trading at Harbro, commented on the recent agreement: “We are delighted that Whyte & Mackay have made the decision to keep this high nutritional product within agriculture and there has already been a great deal of early interest in the product, even though we are still waiting for the first delivery. With there predicted to be a forage shortage in certain parts of the country this winter, the product offers a more competitive solution to buying in silage and with superior performance benefits.”

    Shane Healy, Production Director at Whyte & Mackay told us, “We are very proud to be supporting agriculture and the farming community with the supply of our spent grain and look forward to seeing the first batch coming out of the stills in the next few weeks. We hope it will be well received by the industry and will be interested to see how it performs on farm.”

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