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Hectic Housing- What's been happening with the Scout Beck Herd?

The Scout Beck herd, situated in The Lake District, have seen a very action-packed Winter. Below is a snippet of what went on since being housed! The main herd, consisting of a Bull, 18 cows with calves at foot and 4 bulling heifers, were all housed by the start of December. Whereas the 14 stores (7 heifers and 7 bullocks), came inside from mid-January.

The first task, roughly 6 weeks after housing, was to complete a Faecal Egg Count (FEC) on the main herd. This is a mandatory requirement for the herd health plan produced by the vets. The purpose of completing FECs is to establish whether the herd needs treatment, by assessing muck samples to discover the herd’s fluke and worm burden. The reason FECs are carried out 6 weeks after housing is so any immature fluke (if present) can be picked up in the sample and then eradicated. Sampling and treating at housing could mean the treatment wouldn’t get rid of the immature fluke, and in-turn waste money, plus create resistance. The FEC results did show that all cows and calves had fluke and worms present, so they did require the treatment.

Next on the list came Spaining! (Otherwise known as weaning!) To kill two birds with one stone, the calves got spained on the same day that the herd got treated with fluke and wormer (Closamectin Pour On was used). So, the process of this was to first shed all the calves from the cows, run them down the race, treat the cows with the correct dosage, put them back to their shed and then repeat for the calves, but keep them separate. This was quite a new thing for the herd, usually the calves get spained at housing due to a lack of space but this year the herd have been relocated to a farm with more building capacity. The rule ‘one stress per week’ was the aim for this year, so spaining later in the cycle met these criteria. Minimising a calf’s stress as much as possible and spacing the stressors out was beneficial to their growth. In comparison to spaining at housing, the later spaining has shown a significant difference to the calves, there was no stunt in growth at all, they all remained even and still grew to the desired rate.

A week later, keeping with the one stress rule… it was time to castrate the bull calves. This is a necessary job as the heifers and bullocks stay mixed, so this removes all chances of the heifers getting impregnated. The vet came to surgically castrate, the procedure was to numb the area, open the sack with a scalpel and twist the testicles until they detach. Being able to keep bullocks and heifers together is ideal here to manage group sizes for conservation grazing. It is also beneficial as those calves are the same age and have been exposed to the same things, meaning their immunities are very similar which minimises the possibilities of illness/disease spreading between each calf.

Next came Pregnancy Diagnosis (PD), 22 cows were checked - including the 4 heifers. In total 20 cows were in calf, with the majority around the 6-month mark of the gestation period. PD helps with numerous things, such as: ensuring the cattle get the correct feed, enables separation of geld cows and establishes any fertility issues in the herd. One heifer wasn’t in calf, after further investigation the vet concluded that she was only cycling on one side, and she would never be able to carry a calf to full-term.

With the aim to be part of an accredited disease-free status scheme, the herd went through tests on separate occasions for Johnes and BVD routine tests. This was the first time the herd has been tested for Johnes disease, so nerves were high but very happy to say all cattle came back negative for both!

After discovering a history of the disease called Blackleg on the new farm, it was time to get every head on the holding into the Covexin system as a preventative measure. Blackleg is a fatal clostridial disease that mostly impacts cattle between the ages of 6 months-2 years old. It is a preventable disease through vaccinations, so getting them into the system was a must!

Also, as the surrounding area is renowned for low iodine levels in the soil, the in-calf cows get an iodine bolus 4-6 weeks before the first due date. If the cows were iodine deficient, they run the risk of having stillborn calves or calves that are very dull at birth with a low chance of survival, or slower growth rates and issues with the cow retaining her cleansing.

Throughout the housing period there has been opportunities to seek advice and discus the herd health plans from the vets. With the herd health plan, the biggest focus for this year’s crop of calves is going to be the bull calf management. The vet advised bull selection is done from a young age, keep those selected intact and then the rest should be nipped early instead of surgically castrated to minimise the risk of infection at a later date.

After all these tasks the cattle were turned out in a staggered manor, with the older stores out first, then cows closest to calving!

So what do we have to show for all this effort? Some stunning new calves in a healthy herd of Albions in a most beautiful landscape.

To keep up to date with the Scout Beck Albion herd find us on Instagram: @scoutbeckalbions


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Blue Albion Cattle; The History       (With kind permission of Mr A. Cheese.)

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