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- IBR case study – Using vaccination and ventilation to turn things around on Orkney
Orkney’s cattle population outnumbers humans by around 5,000. As one of Europe’s most densely populated livestock regions, Orkney farmers must be particularly vigilant when it comes to effective disease management.
Fifth generation Orkney beef farmer, Alison Ritch’s family has gradually adapted their practices at Kierfiold Farm to minimise disease risk. This has helped tackle high risk airborne diseases such as Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR), which are increasingly problematic in beef herds on Orkney.
Do you vaccinate for IBR?
IBR vaccination is now routine for the herd. The calves get their primary course of a live marker vaccine, Bovilis® IBR Marker Live at two weeks of age, with a booster given pre-housing.
The heifers entering the herd are vaccinated for IBR in June. After this they fall in with annual booster programme which happens every December – making it manageable within the farm’s existing health plan.
Have you experienced problems prior to this?
In the past we’ve been prone to pneumonia. In 2016 we did blood tests on the calves which gave positive results for IBR and Parainfluenza Virus 3 (PI3). Since then we’ve been actively looking at both vaccination and improving our buildings to reduce and prevent disease as part of the overall herd health plan.
Even with the best intentions there is margin for error. In 2016, we lost two late calves through pneumonia, both had missed being vaccinated.
In hindsight, the financial impact of those losses would have covered the vaccination of the entire herd. It’s been an experience that has made us much more regimented in what we do.
What made you introduce a vaccination programme for the entire herd?
Up until 2017 we were only vaccinating calves for IBR. That year we had six heifers out of 30 that were scanned empty. This had a big knock on effect to the herd. The vet took blood samples from the barren heifers – they all came back positive for IBR.
We then took random blood samples of the cows when doing our annual Johne’s testing, and again results showed we had IBR present.
We sat down with our veterinary surgeon and reviewed our herd health plan to introduce a full vaccination programme. We’ve learnt the hard way that you have to ensure time is set aside to vaccinate and stay compliant with the protocol, even during busy periods.
Have you made any environmental changes?
We attended a seminar on better cattle housing design presented by Jamie Robertson, at the Orkney Agricultural Discussion Society a few years ago. This led to us investigating how we could improve the housing at home.
Our existing sheds were typically space boarded. However, having seen the benefits that Yorkshire boarding has on air flow and in turn reducing the spread of disease, we decided to alter the sheds in 2017 and the developments are ongoing.
Have you seen improvements as a result?
After these enhancements were implemented, we saw improvements in the youngstock’s daily liveweight gain (DLWG). Equally, with better ventilation in the housing system, the cows were also less stressed during calving.
As part of these housing alterations, bedding was kept cleaner which meant less opportunity for pneumonia to be picked up.
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned?
All farmers have good and bad years. By reviewing vaccination and ventilation it’s been possible to make the improvements we need to ensure we have as many cattle as possible on the float going to market. However, it’s important to remember Rome wasn’t built in a day – these things take time.”
- Kierfiold Farm, west coast of mainland Orkney
- 120 breeding cows – Aberdeen-Angus-cross and Limousin-cross and 145 texel-cross Highlander ewes
- In 2019 sold 38,309kg as store at both Aberdeen and Northern auction mart and Orkney auction mart
- 126 hectares
- Fifth generation family farm
- Ritch family took over the tenancy at Kierfiold Farm in 1913
- Owner-occupied since Ms Ritch’s grandfather bought it in the 1970’s
- Spring calving
Bovilis® IBR Marker Live, Lyophilisate and Solvent for Suspension for Cattle, contains live Bovine Herpesvirus, POM-V
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