June 2013 Issue 66
Mark Soutar
Mark simplifies the mystery
What is ketosis? Frequently talked about by vets and frequently wrien-up in
the farming press but actually— what is it?
Efficient Lamb
Producon. . . . . . . . . . P4
Well, Ketosis is an excess of ketones in the blood and body of the animal. But
what are ketones?. . . . . . you’re s%ll talking a foreign language, Veterinary!
Ketosis . . . . . . . . . . . P1
Get the most from your crop
Teat warts. . . . . . . . . P5
And what to do about them
Flies . . . . . . . . . . . . . .P6
Why combang only adult
flies is ineffecve
Ketosis can be difficult to explain without using ’vet-speak’ but, put simply, it is
a lile like running an engine on the wrong ra%o of fuel and oxygen. The fuel
will burn— but not cleanly — and the engine will run , but will have subop%mal igni%on and performance. Basically, keto%c cows are underperforming to either a smaller or greater degree.
So, put on the kele, make a cuppa, turn the page . . . and read more.
A life in the day . . . . P7
Miles appeals for sympathy
Noceboard . . . . . . P8
Useful news and bits’n’bats!
. . . . . . turn to page 2
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What is it—and how does it occur?
“Ketosis is an excess of ketones in the blood and body”
What are Ketones, how are they formed – and why
are they bad?
The presence of high levels of ketones indicate ketosis.
They are formed as a result of the following events:
• The cow naturally has a reduced appe%te around
calving %me, so she eats less - but her body s%ll
needs fuel (food)
• Because she is not ea%ng enough of anything else,
her body uses up some of her stored body fat (milking
off her back).
• This body fat is taken by the bloodstream to the liver
in packages called NEFAs (‘fay acids’)
• In order to properly-dispose of the NEFAs, the liver
needs glucose. But, at %mes such as peak lacta%on,
most of the cow’s glucose is needed elsewhere,
leaving an insufficiency to burn up all the NEFAs (fay
• The NEFAs are therefore only part-burnt, resul%ng in
the produc%on of excessive ketones
• Thus, an excess of ketones in the blood and the body
is a sure indica%on that the cow is keto%c – i.e. that
she is burning fat instead of ea%ng her food properly.
Another prime candidate for ketosis is the ewe in the
late stages of a mul%ple pregnancy. The size of the
pregnancy makes her feel so full already that she is just
not hungry— and she begins to eat a lot less than her
body needs. Her body fills the energy-gap by burning
body-fat, but her lambs are using most of her glucose
supplies meaning her liver cannot burn the fat
efficiently and hey presto! Ketones are produced and
you have the first stages of ketosis.
What’s the Soluon?
A solu%on for the cow or ewe would be to reduce milk
produc%on or je?son the pregnancy. However
mammals are hard wired during early lacta%on and late
pregnancy to sacrificially produce milk and feed the
pregnancy to ensure the survival of the next genera%on
even at the expense of the mother’s own health.
Impressive….! The milking cow or pregnant ewe will
con%nue to keep the milk flowing and the pregnancy
growing even though she does not have enough daily
Cow signs of ketosis include reduced milk, reduced
appe%te, dry dung and occasional nervousness. These
signs are difficult to spot in a group of animals—and
even more difficult to judge. When is a cow nervous or
just highly strung? Is her milk
simply slow to increase . . or is
there more to it than meets
the eye? Is the dung too firm
or is she simply ea%ng enough
fibre? The keto%c cow with
milk and appe%te reduc%on
and firm dung can oCen
appear healthy when viewed in the yard and parlour so
how can the farmer tell when something is wrong?
Because the external cow signs poin%ng towards
ketosis are silent and rather vague, we need to rely on
tests to form an accurate picture. Milk, blood or urine
can all be used for measuring ketones. Milk tes%ng is
popular because it is easy to collect and results are
quick and easy: the Keto test strip is dipped in the
sample and a reading can be obtained within minutes
for lile cost. Milk tes%ng, however, is not as sensi%ve
as the less convenient and more-expensive blood
tes%ng. Tes%ng blood ketone levels can also be
performed with a cow-side hand-held device. My
preference is to make the test suit the purpose. Milk
tes%ng is good for keeping an eye on the metabolic
running of the cows, but when trouble is spoed then
tes%ng blood for a more precise picture would be
strategic. Blood results are conclusive and can prevent
connued on next page
Connued from previous page
oC-repeated and wasteful cycles of changing something
in the ra%on and ‘wai%ng to see what happens’.
Ketosis is an early marker that the metabolic running of
the cow is going wrong. Studies demonstrate that
approximately 30% of cows suffer a bout of ketosis in
early lacta%on, although the level of ketosis varies from
farm to farm. Ketosis is both a silent condi%on of the
struggling cow and a gateway condi%on that leads to
more serious condi%ons. An American study showed
that, when compared
with cows which had
acceptable levels of
blood ketones, cows
suffering ketosis within
the first 2 weeks aCer
calving were 2 to 7
%mes more likely to get metri%s, mas%%s or a displaced
abomasum, and 13% less likely to get pregnant; they
also produced on average 393L less milk. All of these
condi%ons can lead to early culling.
Let’s remind ourselves that ketosis is similar to an
engine running on a subop%mal mix of fuel and air. . . .
just like a cow running on a subop%mal mix of high fat
(NEFAs) and too lile glucose. Fundamentally, it all boils
down to appe%te. The more the cow eats the less body
fat she will use and the more glucose will be available to
burn the NEFAs. It is appete that gets the cow out of
Appe%te is at its lowest during the 3 weeks before and
the 3 weeks aCer calving—and this is when many
metabolic issues rear their heads. It makes sense,
therefore, to do all you can to encourage the cow to
eat: remove all obstacles—anything that might
discourage her from making the effort:
• A stocking density for transi%on & fresh cows that
allows adequate feed space (80 to 100cm per cow) is
the single most cri%cal factor. Certainly less than 75
cm feed space per cow reduces feed intake.
• Ensure that the feed available 24/7. If the feed-trough
is empty when she fancies a nibble—you’ve missed
the chance! No amount of careful breeding will
compensate for an empty feed trough.
• Make the dining experience as pleasurable as possible
by whatever means possible e.g. diet palatability,
smooth trough surface, etc.
• Minimise stresses, such as movements between
Over-condi%oned cows have a more marked drop in
appe%te around calving and, because they have more
fat to mobilise are actually at a higher risk of ketosis.
Older cows also tend to have a higher ketosis incidence.
Kexxtone Boluses are a new and further op%on for
managing the health of cows at high risk of developing
ketosis in early lacta%on (over-condi%oned and/or
older). The bolus contains a 133 day supply of monensin
and is given 3 weeks before expected calving. Monensin
helps the rumen to func%on more efficiently and
increases the yield of glucose precursors from the
rumen, increasing the ability to efficiently-burn fat
(NEFAs) and hence reduce the ketones produced.
The following conversation was reported to have taken
place in a court in Tralee, deep in County Kerry,
Lawyer: 'At the scene of the accident, Mr O'Brien, did
you tell the Garda officer that you had never felt
better in your life?'
O'Brien the old farmer: Indeed I did, sir.'
Lawyer: 'Well then, Mr O'Brien, how is it that you are
now claiming you were seriously injured when my
client's car hit your cart?'
O'Brien the farmer: 'Well, sir,
when the Garda arrived, he went
over to my horse, who had a
broken leg, and shot him. Then he
went over to Darcy, my dog, who was badly hurt, and
shot him as well. I thought, sir, when he asked me how
I was it would be wise under the circumstances to say
I'd never felt better in my life.'
By now the majority of sheep farmers will have put
lambing well and truly behind them for another year.
For those of you who lamb their ewes in spring, it
is worth reminding ourselves of what we are
trying to achieve: in simple terms, producing the
maximum amount of lamb as efficiently as possible.
The cheapest feed available is grazed grass and if
your pastures are well-managed, good quality grass
should be available to the point of finishing most
lambs. For commercial flocks with access to sufficient
well-managed, good quality grassland, there should
be no need to creep feed lambs during late spring
and summer.
How to maintain pasture quality
The best way to maintain pasture quality and u%lise
grass most effec%vely is to use rota%onal rather than
set stocking grazing management systems. Rota%onal
grazing also encourages higher clover content and
the longer stock-free periods help to maintain lower
worm levels on the pasture.
In order to maintain the produc%vity of grassland, we
need to ensure that it has all the nutrients required
for sufficient growth, mainly: phosphorus, potash,
magnesium and nitrogen. Par%cular aen%on must
also be paid to soil pH.
Measuring your success
Measuring sward height is a good way to op%mise
both sheep performance and grass growth. When
pasture cover reaches 4cm in height, supplementary
feeding can end. Target sward height for June is 6 –
7cm: if grass becomes too long and ‘stemmy’, quality
deteriorates and lamb growth rates fall. Should your
grass height creep up, making hay or silage on an ad
hoc basis will allow good quality re-growth in later
weeks. In addi%on,
aCermath will carry a
lower worm burden
and will therefore
provide good safe
season lambs.
George Giles
Worms are a threat to your new lambs
As the season progresses, so too does the worm
burden faced by lambs. The worm burden peaks in
mid to late summer: plan ahead now to provide your
weaned lambs with clean pasture later.
Nematodirus is a par%cularly high risk this year. It
usually affects lambs in spring and is worst when
warm weather follows a cold snap. This year’s late
spring means that this risk will con%nue throughout
June, with the level of risk mainly based upon the
previous year’s grazing history. Lambs should be
grazed on clean pasture wherever possible. Lambs of
12 weeks or less are at the highest risk and, if they
are grazing high-risk pasture, should be wormed
every 3 to 4 weeks through June and early July.
Group 1, (BZ) white wormers are currently being
recommended as treatment for Nematodirus.
Parasite Forecasts
We publish monthly parasite forecasts through our
website in conjunc%on with the Na%onal Animal
Disease Informa%on Service (NADIS). Go to
hp:// or, from
our home page, click the Disease Informa%on tab and
go to the parasite page.
Worming Protocols
Unfortunately, there is no single treat-all protocol.
Every element varies each year and for each farm.
We do, however, encourage our
clients to bring in dung samples
to enable us to run faecal egg
counts - and some clients are
now op%ng to carry out DIY
faecal egg counts with our willing
support always available if/when
Don’t struggle alone. Ring us if you have a worry:
we are always happy to chat through a problem.
Evoluon. Working with you ... Changing with you
Many farms suffer from this irrita%ng problem which
affects mainly young cale up to 2 years old,
some%mes beyond. Teat warts look unsightly but, in
most cases, will simply disappear with %me.
Occasionally, however (and more frequently on some
farms), the warts affect the teats so badly that they
are unable to be milked. This results in mas%%s and
can lead to loss of the quarter and even, occasionally,
loss of the heifer.
How common are they?
A 1983 abaoir study found that of 1657 cale,
37.3% had teat warts and 86.2% of these had
mul%ple infec%ons. Herefords and their crosses
showed the highest numbers of warts. However, the
study was carried out on a random selec%on of
breeds and cannot therefore make a realis%c breed
comparison, although experience in our modern
dairy herds gives current credence to these figures.
What causes warts—and how do they spread?
Bovine teat warts are caused by papillomavirus and
are spread by both direct and indirect contact.
Recent research has iden%fied bovine papillomavirus
DNA in blood, milk, urine, and other biological fluids
obtained from infected animals. Unfortunately, the
virus is very contagious and by the %me one heifer in
a group shows signs, then the virus is usually already
widespread within this group.
The best way to reduce the lesions is to s%mulate an
immune reac%on in the animal concerned. There are
many ways of doing this, the most successful method
being by injec%on of an ‘autogenous vaccine’. An
autogenous vaccine is developed by taking a %ssue
sample from the infected heifer. The sample is sent
to the lab., where it is made into a vaccine which,
when administered to the animal, s%mulates an
immune response which
aacks the virus and causes
the lesions to reduce.
Unlike most vaccines, this is
used as a treatment only
and will not be effec%ve as
a preven%on.
Sally Wilson
Benefits of Autogenous Vaccine:
• It is the best way of reducing the problem if it is
interfering with milking.
• Warts are oCen present before the heifer calves, so
the problem can be dealt with before she enters
her lacta%on
• It is possible to produce vaccine for a group of
heifers so that the whole batch can be vaccinated
together for best results and to reduce spread
Disadvantages of the Autogenous vaccine:
• Depending upon the size of the batch, it can be
expensive at around £40-80 per animal.
• If doing a group of animals, a licence is required in
order to produce the vaccine at a further cost of
around £120. However, this licence can be used to
produce enough vaccine to last 12 months.
• Because of the cost, some people choose to treat
only the most valuable animals in a group, meaning
that the infec%on pressure will remain high, thus
reducing the effec%veness of the vaccine.
What else can be done?
• Stalk-like warts can be %ed-off; others can be
removed surgically. These procedures should be
carried out before the animal is in lacta%on in order
to reduce the risk of complica%ons.
• Watch stocking levels: overstocking will encourage
spread by direct contact.
• Put in place good fly control to reduce indirect
transmission by flies. Flies are produced on-farm in
huge numbers during the
alterna%ve methods of fly
control—speak to Mark who is
offering free trials of his tried
and tested methods.
The late spring has delayed the onset of this year’s flynuisance, but with warmer weather succeeding at last
in making an appearance, our annual bale seems
about to commence.
Flies start life as eggs, usually laid in a place where the
Fly laying eggs
will have access to
on raw tuna
(especially calf
dung, with its
higher sugar and
protein-content) is
a favourite site and fly factories thrive on-farm.
The nuisance effect of flies is usually underes%mated as
we tend to become habituated and learn to part-ignore
the buzzing, bites and sensa%on from landing flies. Flybothering tends to be no%ced most in the farmhouse
and in the parlour during milking, where fly-irrita%on
can increase the incidence of kicking. It also distracts
the animals from ea%ng and res%ng. Improved fly
control has been linked with a small percentage
increase in milk yield and calf growth, but it is the
diseases transmied by flies which are most easilyno%ced, Schmallenberg and Blue tongue viruses
(transmied by bi%ng midges) being the current and
most topical. Flies also transmit , amongst other things,
teat warts, summer mas%%s and pink eye bacteria.
Adult airborne flies form only approximately 20% of the
fly popula%on: the
remaining 80% is
s%ll lurking as
eggs and maggots
in the bedding
and dung . . . . . so
if there are 100s
of flies in the air,
there are 1000s
more maturing in the wings, wai%ng their moment. A
fly control programme that targets only the adult flies
will therefore have very limited success: much more
would be gained from dealing with
the large reserve army wai%ng for
the right condi%ons of heat and
moisture (i.e. summer!), to make their transi%on into
the air. Trea%ng the maggot and egg stages will reduce
the number of flies that actually make it to the
nuisance adult stage in the air.
Mark Soutar
Fly control in the field for grazing stock needs
considera%on. Many of the flies bothering animals in
the field will originate from the farm, a local manure
stack, manure pats
grow up quickly. It
takes 7 to 10 days
for an egg to
develop to an adult
fly. The adult fly
then lays eggs in
batches of 200 eggs. The rapid growth and prolific
laying requires the fly to consume lots of sugar and
protein. This is why calf dung can support prolific fly
development and the “less nutri%ous” adult dung and
ro?ng plant material is a poor second choice for the
fly’s needs. Adult flies can travel 2 miles in distance.
Therefore fly control in the field points back to fly
control on the farm first then the standard prac%ce of
applying spot on products to the stock. I have found the
fly catcher bags can make a difference in some field
To discuss which fly control op%ons would be most
suitable for your own par%cular farm, please ring the
prac%ce and ask for Mark.
of Evolution Admin Staff!!
We all know roughly what the noun
‘administration’ means. It’s the ending that I
find most apt in my circumstances.
ION ‘An electrically charged atom which
careers around a confined space in an
apparently random manner’
So there you have it. In summary, the act of
running around like a headless chicken.
Actually, strictly speaking, it should now be
admin‘we’stration. Some of you may have spoken
to, and the brave amongst you (those who have
ventured into the office) will have met Jo, my
fellow electrically charged atom. Between the
two of us we are slowly mastering the finer
arts of pleasing many masters.
I’ve always likened this job to that of a
juggler. In the morning at around 8am (oh,
alright, then—sometimes just after!) I come
into the office & before the door has even closed
behind me three balls are thrown (usually only
metaphorically) in the general direction of my
head. Thus begins my working day. Three balls
are easy, once you have mastered the rhythm of
things. Before I make it to my desk a phone has
usually vibrated itself onto the floor. So I pick it
up and answer it. This normally results in a task
to complete (ball four). So far, it’s all under
control. I sometimes manage to get to the
kitchen & make that all important first coffee
without encountering another ball. The coffee
gives the manic atom impetus, rather like Apollo
rocket afterburners! Upon returning to the
gladiatorial arena I find that illustrious leader
number one (she who must be obeyed) has
generated not one but two
or even three more balls
which are usually thrown
simultaneously over her
shoulder in my direction
(as she is exiting for her
chariot). I hear the distant
sirens of Nether Stowey
wail “Boadicea alert, clear the roads”.
The general rhythm of the day starts to fall into
place: complete two tasks (put two balls down in
a controlled fashion) take on three more. Five to
six balls in the air are just about manageable . . .
but things are getting a little fraught - and the
sense of humour unicycle long-over-balanced.
From now on it’s a battle for survival. The
telephone rings with a demand that 2.5million
bottles of vaccine be got ready (stick labels on all
don’t-obscure-one-letter-of-the-informationalready-covering-all-available-space) ‘we’re on
Bridgwater and will be
passing you in 10 minutes’,
but while doing that with
one hand I also, with the
other, have to take a call
to book-in a TB test that ‘I
meant to ring about last
Wednesday) and ‘well, yes, we really need to get
all 1800 cattle to market on Saturday. . . . What
do you mean you can’t do it??’ and this will
continue until about four o’clock, after which,
slowly, one by one, I can put down the balls &
pick up my stone cold cup of coffee.
The more balls you juggle, of course, the higher
you have to throw them - and the more chance
there is of one getting stuck in the rafters, or
rolling off under a table. If I’m lucky, I find the
errant balls on the floor in full view, usually not a
problem, they just need dealing with. The one
that is stuck in the rafters, or covered in fluff
under a table, that’s the one that usually results
in either a disapproving look, stony silence, or an
ear-bashing depending on who uncovers my
juggling ineptitude.
But it’s the ball that wakes me up at midnight,
unaccountably turning up to dig
me hard in the middle of the back
to remind me of the unreturned
phone call. . . and the Newsletterarticle-to-write, hurled at me last
thing & needed tomorrow, that
one is the real show-stopper.
Harvesting . . long may it continue!
The House of
Food and Rural Affairs
Committee (EFRACom)
recently reported on an inquiry into the role that
vaccination could play in tackling bovine TB. The
report notes:
• that vaccination of cattle against bovine TB is currently
prohibited under EU law
• Defra applied last year for ‘in principle’ approval of a
marketing authorisation for a cattle vaccine BUT
• Lengthy field trials would be required before the rules
could even be considered for amendment by the EU and the
World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)
For more information, see
For the full report,see
Dairy Co Mass Plan
Completed your DCMP? Want to know how successful
your efforts have been??
Take advantage of the extra funding now available
through SWHLI to have a review for only £80 + VAT. An
excellent opportunity to pick out any areas needing
aen%on—or to find that you can pat yourself on the
Ring the office to book: 01278 734828
◊ zero milk withhold; 10 day meat withdrawal
◊ for beef and dairy cale
◊ for the treatment & preven%on of gutworm &
lungworm infec%ons and external parasites
◊ one easy-to-use pour-on applica%on.
◊ Improved viscosity significantly reduces run-off,
improves effec%veness.
Order a 2.5L or a 5L pack
to receive a free 75ml dosing gun
Need to expand quickly? Thinking of
buying in???
Buying-in is becoming
increasingly common
in order to quickly
acquire returns from
large scale
investments in
expansion programmes. If you are considering this
route, especially if you have historically been a closed
herd, consider the following points:
• If it can be avoided in any way . . . . avoid it!
• You will almost certainly buy in Johnes. Sign up
for quarterly screening of the herd, even if you
have never found a posi%ve cow, in order that
you detect it as early as possible.
• Check disease status for IBR, Lepto and BVD. If
you haven’t previously vaccinated, vaccinate
before buying in.
• Isolate the group of animals for 3 weeks
before introducing them to the herd.
• Do regular bulk milk screening for IBR wild
type and BVD virus
• Buy in from a low prevalence TB area (if there
is such a thing these days!)
Clinical Club: Feeding for
Nutrion with Richard Cooper
Evolu%on recently hosted an
enlightening evening talk for farm
animal vets. The talk was given by
Richard Cooper of EBVC. A brief
overview of the main points can be
found at
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Evolution Farm Vets,
Inwood Farm, Nether Stowey TA5 1HY
01278 734828 Email: [email protected]