COVID-19 (Coronavirus) – an update for our clients.

Bovine TB testing and the use of ancillary tests

In March we supported a meeting and farm walk by vet Dick Sibley who works with industry experts to try and update government policy on TB. An enlightening event showing undeniable parallels between TB and Johne’s disease. Frustratingly, we have a very successful national control plan for Johne’s, but an emphasis on testing for TB with very little focus on prevention.
Dick pointed out that only three countries use the Avian and Bovine comparative TB test. The rest of the world just use Bovine Tuberculin, culling animals with a bottom lump (of any size) on day two.He used a barrage of other tests for TB on any animals that had a bottom (bovine) lump whether they passed the traditional skin test or not. Staggeringly, 81% of these animals were positive to at least one of the alternative tests! This doesn’t suggest that all of these animals were infectious, but it does show just how many animals were infected with TB and probably had it sitting latent within their white blood cells.

Should cattle that pass TB tests but produce a bottom lump be regarded as TB risk animals in the same way that J2-4 cows are with Johne’s disease?… The same risk factors of stress, diet change and concurrent disease which precipitate clinical Johne’s in cows are believed to be involved in turning latent TB cows into infectious reactors.
It was clear how little we truly understand about the transmission of TB. Traditionally viewed as a respiratory disease, why doesn’t it behave like RSV, IBR or any of the other respiratory pathogens? In his research, Dick found nothing in saliva samples but he did find up to 1000 TB bacteria per gram of faeces from cows that had passed the skin test but had bottom lumps. To put this into perspective, it only takes about 10 bacteria to infect a calf with TB. So 1000 bacteria per gram from cows who were producing 60kgs of dung per day is a lot of potential TB! We then often spread that slurry all over the farm for the herd to graze…..

There were some very radical and challenging ideas presented. Possibly the most easily applicable measure is to take time while TB testing to record all of the animals who generate a bottom lump. Regard these as “at risk” and discuss their management with the vets, (in many other countries they would have been culled).
Duncan and Richard have both completed their BCVA TB advice accreditation and from May Duncan will be part of the TB Advisory Service (TBAS). As part of this, he will be providing government-funded visits to look at biosecurity and other control measures to reduce the risk of TB outbreaks on your farms.

Enrichment tips for locked up hens

On 29th November 2021, new housing measures were brought in to protect poultry and captive birds across Wiltshire and Somerset and the rest of the UK from avian influenza. The new housing measures made it a legal requirement for all owners to keep their birds indoors. The requirements will be updated from time to time, so if you want the latest check out the relevant pages from DEFRA on GOV.UK

Get the latest from DEFRA

Lack of essential enrichment

For free-range birds, especially those who are used to time outdoors, suddenly finding themselves limited to indoor spaces can deprive them of normal outlets for their social and emotional needs.

To help combat this, the team at Garston Veterinary Group in Wiltshire and Somerset thought it would be useful to highlight a few basic enrichment techniques you can use. Especially if any of your birds have started to exhibit behaviours that indicate they are suffering. These behaviours include:

  • Feather picking
  • Aggression or bullying
  • Egg eating
  • Cannibalism

Enrichment can prevent these behaviours by mimicking the birds’ natural environment.

The advantages of enrichment

Multiple studies suggest that enrichment for housed birds like chickens can result in improved reproductive performance, healthier, and more productive animals. Keeping birds healthy means you not only fulfil your moral obligations, but if you are a commercial operator, you could also be helping your bottom line and fully complying with relevant welfare regulations.

Types of bird enrichment

Enrichment comes in several forms under headings that include:

Social enrichment

Chickens are social animals so it’s important they can interact with other chickens. If this isn’t possible, then you should take steps to mimic the presence of other birds.

Physical enrichment

This is about creating a housing environment your birds can interact with by adding structures, ramps, bales, or perches. Also, it’s helpful to provide substrates for digging and dust bathing.

Nutritional enrichment

Chickens are natural foragers so you can usefully create challenge and interest in the way they get their food. Adding food to piles of (safe) leaves or hanging heads of cabbage from the coop ceiling will make them work harder to feed. This all mimics their normal outdoor environment.

Visual enrichment

We’re not sure that giving them a TV is on the cards but hanging old CDs around their living space or adding mirrors from time to time may add interest. Removing these elements and then replacing them prevents your flock from becoming bored.

Olfactory, auditory, and tactile enrichment

This helps stimulate all their senses, as would be the case if they were outside. Adding smells like vanilla or naturally occurring plants (again only safe ones), playing gentle music, and adding footballs, and even swings (to mimic swinging branches) are all techniques you might like to drop into their living space.

The novelty bonus

The fact is that if a person or animal is moved from their normal, random outside existence to a more routine (boring) life of incarceration, then the stress of a newly imposed confinement can be eased by adding novel elements. Don’t just throw a few hay bales into the shed and leave it at that though.

Rotate enrichment techniques and experiment to see what your birds like. Any costs associated with these practices are likely to be paid back and then some. This is because you’re left with happier, more fulfilled, and more productive birds thanks to your provision of the physical and mental stimulation they need.

Subclinical milk fever

Clinical milk fever is typically; cold ears, swan-shape neck, animal unable to stand/rise, but these cases are only the “tip of the iceberg”. For every clinical case of milk fever, there will be a further number of animals with subclinical milk fever. These animals don’t have outward signs but are still affected with a low blood calcium level.

Recent research shows that cows with reduced blood calcium levels have an increased risk of transition cow diseases such as metritis and LDAs, as well as reduced fertility and older cows tend to lie down for longer and have lower step counts after calving. Blood samples can be taken to check and monitor for low blood calcium. These need to be taken from cows within 48 hours of calving. But “prevention is better than cure”.

Strategies for control include:
• Calcium restriction in late pregnancy
• DCAB diets; reducing the use of high potassium (potash) forages like grass silage and supplementing with magnesium chloride
• Calcium boluses or drenches

Please feel free to contact us if you would like more information on subclinical milk fever.

Sheep and parasitology

Our farm vet Emily attended a sheep and cattle parasitology course at SRUC in Edinburgh recently. Here is an insight in to what she learnt and current worming advice:

Autumn is the time of year to be reviewing your farm’s parasite risk and discuss housing doses of anthelmintic for worms and fluke. Using housing treatments prevents pasture contamination at turnout and removes the impact of a worm burden on appetite and daily weight gain. It is important to time your fluke doses correctly as some products will only be effective against mature fluke so a combination product isn’t always the right choice.

We are seeing a lot of lungworm this year so act quickly if you notice coughing in grazed cattle or even symptoms as subtle as condition loss, faster than normal breathing or reduced milk yields. Cattle are particularly susceptible in late summer and autumn after protection from long acting wormers has ceased. Parasite control is all about limiting the exposure of the most vulnerable animals to burdens of infective larvae on pasture via grazing management and appropriate anthelmintic treatments. However, with lungworm we also have an effective vaccine that can protect your cattle throughout the season.

Contact us for more information or to discuss the best parasitology protocol for your farm.

Frome Market Health Hub – A new service for farmers

A new service could help save the lives of busy farmers putting off a trip to the doctors.

Frome Market Health Hub will give farmers, their families, and agricultural workers free access to confidential health checks, without the need to book an appointment.

Hundreds of rural workers attend Frome Livestock Market auctions every week and the hub, launched by Somerset NHS Foundation Trust (SFT), based within the market site, will open its clinic on the second Wednesday morning of every month – the first clinic being held on Wednesday, October 13 between 9.00am and 1.00pm. The SFT believes the hub will provide an important gateway for the farming community who are often the hardest to reach through traditional health service channels, and the hope is that farmers will make use of the drop-in clinic which is deliberately located at the market in what is the heart of their business and social lives.

NHS Operational Manager for the Health Hubs, Jane Fitzgerald, said: “We recognise farmers and farm workers often put the health and welfare of their livestock above that of their own wellbeing and will often put off seeking help, when it could help to save their life. “This is a great opportunity for those living and working in rural areas to access free health checks in a place and time which is convenient to them.”

Frome Market Health Hub will also be the base for additional, independently run clinics being scheduled for specialist problems on a rolling programme. Separately funded Foot Clinics will be held twice monthly, thanks to a grant from Somerset Community Foundation, again free of charge for farmers and with no need for prior appointments.

Health Hub clinics will rely on volunteers from farming and community-based charities like Farming Community Networks (FCN) and the Mendip Health Connectors, to give guidance on any long-term support farmers may need, as well as to spread the news amongst the South West’s agricultural community.

Service lead for Mendip Health Connections, Jenny Hartnoll, said: “It will be a pleasure to get to know farmers at the market and for the Health Connectors to become familiar faces there. “We know how important it is for farmers to have access to health care and advice that’s right there, without needing an appointment. We are delighted to play a part in telling them all about the Health Hub, and the services available to them.”

FCN’s Suzie Wilkinson, who has been involved in a similar health project at Sedgemoor market, added: “We know from our own experience that farmers really appreciate this excellent service which is free and available regularly. Farmers were grateful the nurses really understood their way of life, with all its daily stresses, and didn’t turn up their noses at dirty wellies.”

Lord Lieutenant of Somerset, Annie Maw, said the Frome project was only made possible thanks to businesses and organisations like Mole Valley Farmers and Frome Livestock Auctioneers (FLA). She said: “From Mole Valley Farmers, who have given marketing and creative professionalism, to the treatment rooms made available by Frome Livestock Auctioneers; together with all the help and advice given voluntarily by those who feel passionately that we need to do more to help our farmers. “Being able to support our farming and rural community in this way is a first-class example of a public and voluntary sector collaboration – testament to the hard work and team effort of everyone involved. “Livestock markets are an integral part of the farming community. Not only are they a place of business but a place for farming families to catch up with friends and family, so siting a health clinic at these locations makes absolute sense.”

Mole Valley Farmers Head of Organisational Safety and Wellbeing, Lorna Filby, said: “Farmers’ physical and emotional health and wellbeing are often put to one side as the important task of managing the farm takes over. “Farming can be a very isolating and lonely occupation, with many farm workers spending long hours alone, working in remote locations and leaving them with very little time to access healthcare. “In the farming community emotional health is often overlooked yet it is one of the biggest threats the industry faces. With additional challenges from the Coronavirus pandemic these are testing times for the agricultural sector.”


Frome Market Health Hub will be open on the second Wednesday of each month in conjunction with the livestock market’s key sale dates:

· October 13

· November 10

· December 8

· January 12

· February 9

· March 9

For dates of Wednesday foot clinics at the market, please see the FLA Market Report which will have regular updates.



Business organisations supporting FMHH are:

Frome Livestock Auctioneers Ltd

Mole Valley Farmers Ltd

Old Mill Accountants

Cooper & Tanner

Symonds & Sampson Auctioneers

Red Tractor Assurance – New standards

There have been changes to the RTA scheme, some of which come into force at the start of November. The main updates are outlined below, but please click here for full details:


NEW: Tethered housing systems, for stock of any age, will not be permitted on Red Tractor farms.
NEW: Commitment to eliminate the routine euthanasia of calves by 2023. A new standard is focused on a written breeding and management policy.
NEW: A health plan now needs to be signed, dated and reviewed annually by a nominated vet, who should visit the farm at least once a year.
NEW: All farms with workers must have a written health and safety policy.

Beef and lamb

NEW: Tethered housing systems, for stock of any age, will not be permitted on Red Tractor farms.
NEW: Individual farm protocol for eradication of Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD). This needs to be documented in a health plan and implemented.
NEW: All farms with workers must have a written health and safety policy.
NEW: The health plan now needs to be signed, dated and reviewed annually by a nominated vet who should visit the farm at least once a year.
UPGRADED: At least one person on farm must have undertaken medicine training to help raise awareness of antimicrobial resistance and drive best practice.

Six-monthly TB testing

Please be aware that APHA are beginning to phase in six-monthly TB testing for herds in High Risk Areas of England from July 2021.

Increasing the frequency of surveillance testing in the HRA from annual to six-monthly will help detect TB-infected herds at an earlier stage. This reduces the time M. bovis can spread within the herd, be transmitted to other herds, and potentially shed in the farm environment. Farms with no TB breakdown in the previous six years or accredited Level 1 or above in the TB CHECs health scheme will be eligible to stay on annual testing.

First routine WHT – Between July and December 2021       Next test window (if 1st test clear) – First six-monthly herd test from January 2022 onwards


First routine WHT – Between January and June 2022        Next test window (if first test is clear) – First six-monthly herd test from July 2022


To find out more about TB testing on your farm or smallholding, or if you have specific questions that aren’t covered here, feel free to contact our farm vets for advice.

Body Condition Scoring (BCS) in Beef Cattle

Body condition scores are a vital part of successful fertility management on beef units. These techniques are ways of managing body condition score changes throughout the year if required:

• House later if grass growth and quality has been good in the summer and a decrease in BCS is required
• Wean calves later if a decrease in BCS is required
• Increase straw in the ration, costs allowing, to decrease ME of ration and prevent excessive BCS gain during winter housing
• Manage thin cows and heifers as a single group requiring extra energy to allow accurately targeted feeding

During winter housing feeding 1kg of barley/day will equate to a gain in BCS of approximately ½ unit body condition score

During summer wean calves earlier if thin or a heifer; weaning 1 month earlier will equate to a gain in BCS of ¼ unit if pasture quality is good.

If you would like to know more about Body Condition Scoring or our cost-effective Vet Tech Farm Services, please contact our farm team.

Good post-operative care on the farm

Following a recent seminar on farm animal surgery, Rich Talbot gives us some key factors to achieve a speedy recovery:

Operations on farm animals are commonplace; from caesareans to enucleations (eye removal). As with any procedure, complications can arise. Good post-operative care is key to welfare and vital to ensure the animal continues it’s productive life.
With good stockman ship, husbandry and communication with the operating vet, many complications after surgery can be avoided. Here’s what to watch out for:

Pain and discomfort:
•Decreased movement/altered locomotion
•Decreased interaction with other animals
•Reduced feed intake (hollow left flank due to poor rumen fill)
•Tooth grinding
•Dull/poor coat condition
•Reduced mental activity & responsiveness
•Animals post-op MUST have clean, dry, comfortable bedding that is grippy under foot.

Wound complications:
•Abnormal discharge

•Poor feed intakes – Most likely related to pain

Access to feed
•Animals post-op MUST have access to good quality forage at all times.

•Can be related to pain
•Poor access to water
•Signs include poor skin tenting, sunken/hollow eyes, tacky mucous membranes (gums)
•Correction of hydration can be achieved by stomach tube. This is an extremely useful tool for farmer & vet.

Medication compliance:
•Most animals will be placed on a course of antibiotics. Due to the nature of surgery on farm, it is never completely sterile. As a result, infections are a risk.
•It is important to completely finish any course of medication. Sometimes an extended course may be needed.
•Communication with the vet is important if you notice any of the above signs. Early detection results in faster treatment and faster recovery.

Is your dairy herd protected from Leptospirosis?

Dairy herds are particularly at risk from Leptospirosis due to management factors that increase the risk of exposure, including close contact within the herd and with dairy workers, confinement during milking and in the yard, and moist conditions.

Leptospirosis is a serious infectious disease that can have detrimental effects on a dairy herd’s health and production. It can also cause serious and sometimes long-term illness in humans. Are your dairy herd and workers protected?

Garston’s large animal vets recommend a robust vaccination programme to give your dairy herd long-term immunity from Leptospirosis, protecting both cattle and humans.

Book a herd visit

How Leptospirosis is spread:

– Infected cattle can shed the bacteria in their urine for months and sometimes years, which causes new infections in susceptible animals.
– The bacteria can survive for weeks in water, mud, and damp soil.
– Infection can occur through fine urine droplets being inhaled by cattle and humans during milking.
– The mouth, nose, eyes, and damaged skin can be penetrated by the bacteria.
– Humans, cattle, sheep, pigs, rodents and most other mammals are at risk.

How dairy herds can be affected:

L. pomona infection:
– Can affect most cattle within a herd, with fatalities of up to 100%.
– Can cause dramatic milk reduction in older herds.
– Can sometimes cause abortion.
– Less common disease in calves that are fed colostrum from vaccinated cows giving them temporary immunity.

L. hardjo infection:
– Can affect many cows in the herd.
– Sudden drop in milk yields (up to 2 weeks), increased white blood cell count.
– Can cause 5-10% abortion rate between 6-12 days after transmission.

When it comes to humans, the infection typically causes a severe flu-like illness for about a week, or can cause a recurring chronic disease or severe nervous symptoms in some people. Dairy herd farmers have a duty to protect workers and their families from Leptospirosis as a failure to do so can result in potential liability, as well as a reduction in their workforce while they recover.

The ideal aim of a vaccination programme is to immunise all cattle before infection occurs. If Leptospirosis is already present in the herd, vaccinating young uninfected cattle is where you would start.  Book a visit.

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