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Welcome to HVC’s Spring newsletter for 2016.  The winter rain has provided an excellent soil moisture profile from which we can hope to enjoy better than average pasture growth rates this spring. However, with these predicted higher pasture growth rates, it is a timely opportunity to consider what bloat prevention you will be employing this spring.

In July, Shane attended the MLA Red Meat Updates in Launceston.  He spoke about average calving dates and how, as a key fertility indicator, they can assist producers to improve herd profitability. See below for a brief article outlining some of this information.

HVC will be running a MLA sponsored Reproactive field day at Calrossi, Rosewood on Friday 23rd September 2016. The day will focus on critical mating weights in heifers, body condition scoring cows, ideal length of joining periods, bull management and disease prevention, as well as a MLA market update. An invitation will be sent to everyone on our email list in the next week, but please feel free to contact any of the vets if you have any questions, would like to view the program for the day, or book your seat to come along, then visit the website below to register.
Staff at the Holbrook Veterinary Centre would like to wish you all the best for the spring season!

- Reminders

- Staff Profile

    - Theresa Star

- Vet Articles
     - Are your bulls ready? 
     - How fertile is your herd? 

     - When to help the calving cow
      - Equine Dentistry 



Production Animals

  • This spring is shaping up to be a potentially high risk period for bloat. Consider and implement your bloat control measures.
  • Get a snap shot of your herd fertility - counting how many calves you have born in each of the 3 week periods of calving will enable you to start benchmarking your herd fertility and calculate your average calving date.
  • Check the bull team - all bulls need a thorough breeding soundness examination prior to joining in order to maximise herd fertility. Don’t forget that new bulls are the highest risk group of bulls and need close observation/ management to ensure their performance.
  • Heifer development – are your heifers on target to achieve an optimal conception pattern?  This is all driven by age and weight, therefore weigh your heifers ASAP. 
  • AI programs require planning and management – start thinking now about dates for AI, length of post-calving intervals and nutrition in the lead up to your AI program.
Companion Animals
  • Allergies will start to become an issue with the Spring pollens and grasses growing.  Watch out for hayfever-like symptoms and skin rashes.
  • Don’t forget to look inside your pet’s mouth regularly to check dental health. Perhaps consider a dental treat to help keep their teeth clean.
  • Now that it’s warming up, it is time to get out and about with your dogs.  Exercise is so important both for weight management and enrichment.
  • Please be responsible new puppies and kittens and get them vaccinated, desexed and registered with the local council to avoid penalties.

Are your bulls ready?

One of the most important profit drivers in any beef enterprise is the ability to land calves on the ground. As we are all aware in extensive systems bulls make up a fairly important part of this process. Therefore, it is fundamental that we take the time to ensure our bulls are fertile and ready for the breeding season, which will help to mitigate risk of any reproductive failure.
The first, and biggest, step to ensuring that your bull team is ready for the joining period is to perform an annual bull breeding soundness examination (BBSE) on your entire bull team. This test will involve 4 key components, known as the 4 S’s:

  1. Structural soundness
  2. Semen quality and quantity
  3. Serving ability
  4. Sexually transmitted disease prevention
During this test the veterinarian will assess the bulls’ feet and leg structure, palpate and measure the testes, collect and examine semen where indicated, vaccinate for Vibriosis, 7-in-1 and Pestivirus depending on the farm’s management plan, as well as performing a service ability test. This service ability test enables the veterinarian to pick up any issues such as lameness, penile infections or trauma, and preputial injuries.
It is important to understand that the industry average is for a bull to work 3 seasons before being culled and sold. Therefore to maintain a high performance and low risk bull team it is important to try and purchase the same number of bulls each year to ensure an even distribution of ages and experiences within the bull team. The cost per calf of a $6000 bull that works for 3 seasons is $50, however if this bull works for only 1 season this cost blows out to $116 per calf, alternatively if the bull remains fit for 5 seasons this cost can be as low as $36 per calf. Therefore completing an annual bull breeding soundness examination and following the points below will form part of a plan to ensure the bull team is fit, efficient and lasts for as long as practical.
  • Ensure bulls have been service ability tested prior to joining.
  • Multi-sire join or rotate any single-sire joined mobs.
  • Rotate bulls throughout joining, generally at the end of the first cycle (3-4 weeks in).
  • Closely monitor bulls during joining and remove or add bulls from mobs as appropriate – this involves observing the bull to be both in the paddock and adequately serving females. Even though the bulls have passed an extensive reproductive examination, problems still develop during the joining period. 
  • New season bulls require particular attention.  All new bulls need a very high level of observation to identify issues early and allow for appropriate action to take place.
  • Monitor female cyclicity in the mob, as an early indicator of joining period success.

Therefore, where possible ensure that cows have been exposed to as many fit bulls as possible, remember that the optimal target is 65% pregnant in the first 3 weeks and that pregnancy testing can start from 6-8 weeks after the bulls are removed. In herds that are using AI programs, the ideal program is to pregnancy test at 85 days from the initial AI, which will have 1st and 2nd round cover bull pregnancies being picked up at 65 & 45 days, respectively.

How fertile is your herd?

Firstly, what is fertility? We all agree that fertility is the ability of a cow to conceive, to calve unassisted and to raise a calf to weaning. However, it is more than that, as this cow needs to start this process as a 2 year old heifer and repeat it every 12 months, without exception. When we consider herd fertility, most people start to talk about pregnancy rate, however this is a very poor indicator of the herds’ fertility, without respect to the length of the joining period.
If we compared a herd with a 98% pregnancy rate over a 10 week joining, with a herd with a 90% pregnancy rate over a 6 week joining, we start to appreciate that although the pregnancy rate is lower, we know that the shorter joining period with a 90% pregnancy rate is the more fertile herd. This is driven by the fact that calves born earlier in the calving period are both, timed better relative to our pasture growth curve and have a greater opportunity to gain weight, hence producing a heavier animal by sale time. Therefore high fertility is not driven by high pregnancy rates, but in fact by when the calves are born and how long this process lasts.
This is defined as the conception pattern, which is the number of pregnant cows per cycle of a joining period, and it is far more important than the overall pregnancy rate. The 10 week joining produced a conception pattern of 40-30-23-5 % pregnant in each of the 4 cycles of the joining period, whereas the 6 week joining produces a conception pattern of 70-20 % pregnant in each of the 2 cycles of the joining period. There must be an easier way to assess the fertility (or conception pattern) of my herd you say, yes there is, it is called the average calving date (ACD), this is a single number that represents the average calving date of the entire herd and is driven by the length of the calving period and the number of females calving early in this period.
To put this into perspective the ACD of the 10 week joining above is day 30, whereas the ACD of the 6 week joining is day 16, this is equivalent to $4,900 per 100 calves just in increased age and therefore weight, let alone the benefits for ongoing female reproductive performance. Now if we suggested that the average herd only needs 80% pregnancy rate overall to maintain their annual breeder numbers, shouldn’t we all be chasing short joining periods and early average calving dates!
How can you do it? There are 2 ways to measure your conception pattern and calculate your average calving date:

  1. Early aged pregnancy diagnosis.
  2. Recording a tally of the cows calved at the end of each cycle of the calving period.

So, as all of our producers start to calve, it is a timely opportunity to get a notepad and pen and record a tally of how many females calved at the end of each 3 week cycle; this will give you the confidence to make any changes to your joining periods this spring. For any more information on beef herd fertility, or calculating your average calving date, contact any of the vets at HVC on 02 6036 2374.
Remember; profitability is driven by when the cows are pregnant, not if they are!


When to help the calving cow?

Calving, or parturition, in the cow is broken up into three stages; dilation of the cervix, delivery of the calf and delivery of the foetal membranes. The vast majority of calvings will be completed swiftly, smoothly and without the need for intervention. Most people will check their calving mobs 1 to 2 times a day, sometimes more frequently in 1st calving heifers. Once a cow has broken the foetal membranes (water bag) she is now in stage 2 which in most cases should see a calf delivered within 4 hours, however everyone will still be thinking ‘when is it appropriate to intervene?’

When to Assist? The decision to intervene is a matter of judgment and judgment improves with experience. The cow that labours for over an hour with the front feet and nose showing will need some assistance. Similarly, the cow that has obviously been labouring for over an hour with nothing showing certainly needs help.

Guidelines that can be useful are that if there has been regular monitoring and a cow is found to be calving, if the water bag is still present, she can be given 2 hours and then taken to the yards if there is no further progression. If the cow is calving but the waters have broken then she can be given 1 hour before being taken to the yards. When the cow is brought into the yards for investigation, hygiene is paramount to the survival of the cow and calf (wash hands and arms thoroughly with iodine or chlorhexidine solution). It is important to assess the presentation of the calf, normal can be coming forwards with presentation of the head and two front legs, or backwards with two hind legs and a tail. If any issues arise during examination of a calving difficulty, then assistance should be sought.

Obesity in Companion Animals

With spring nearly upon us it is a perfect time to address the issue of obesity in our beloved animals. Whilst the rising levels of obesity in the Australian population is well publicised with campaigns like “Swap it, don’t stop it” with reference to exercise, it is easy to forget our companion animals are suffering the same fate. 

Similar to humans, obesity has been linked to multiple diseases. These include osteoarthritis, cruciate ligament rupture within the knee, diabetes and pancreatitis, to name just a few. Not only do these diseases decrease your pet’s quality of life but are associated with large veterinary bills and in some cases lifelong medical treatment.

The easiest way to determine if your cat or dog is overweight is by asking the veterinarian during a routine check-up which occur during annual vaccinations. Often there will be a record of previous weights which will highlight any upward trends that could lead to obesity. Other common indicators of obesity include: 

  • Inability to easily locate the ribs and spine 
  • No discernible waist when looking down onto the animal
  • Decreased energy levels and panting during light exercise 

Whilst daily exercise is a crucial part of any weight loss program, success is mostly driven by dietary change and owner commitment. Treats should only make up 5% or less of the diet and ideally be given as rewards when exercising or training. It is important to remember that the food we like is often extremely energy dense and fatty, thus making it inappropriate for our animals. The rest of the daily feed needs to be weighed out in accordance to the pet’s ideal body weight and manufacturer’s recommendations on the food packaging. Over time the amount being fed can be refined by recording the pet's weight every month and adjusting accordingly. Success can be maximised by incorporating specially formulated weight loss diets for example; Hills w/d.

Should you require further information diet, please don’t hesitate to make an appointment to discuss your pet’s dietary requirements.  Any of our friendly staff will be more than willing to give advice on weight loss and diet recommendations.

Equine Dentistry

Dentistry on horses has been performed for many years and is an important part of horse husbandry.  The principle objective of a dental examination and/or procedure is to promote the general health of the horse by improving their ability to eat and relieving any discomfort.  If your horse is being seen by a veterinarian for any reason from vaccination to gelding and even lameness, it is a good opportunity to have a dental check at the same time.  Regular examinations allow for the early identification and treatment of potential problems, decreasing the possibility of more severe dental conditions in the future. Much of the dental development in the horse occurs between 2-5 years of age, so particular attention to the teeth during this time is recommended.  

It is in the nature of horses not to show pain or weakness until it is unbearable as they are a prey species.  However, signs that your horse may have a dental problem include;

  • Dropping feed from the mouth whilst eating, slow eating, avoiding certain hard feeds
  • Fighting the bit or avoiding contact with the bit whilst being ridden
  • Bad smell from the mouth or nostrils
  • Weight loss and depression

The dental procedure itself is referred to as ‘floating’ and involves removing the sharp enamel points by filing or rasping, which can be done either with hand held instruments or a battery driven power float device.  These modern developments to the equine dentistry industry allow a more efficient procedure and with greater precision.  Qualified operators are essential to avoid damage.  Sedation is usually required for dental procedures, but especially when using the power float.   

Holbrook Veterinary Centre has performed equine dentistry for the local area since its establishment. We continue to offer this service on a daily basis, with Seumas McKillop performing much of the work, and new recruit David Riordan showing a very keen interest to develop his equine dentistry skills.  We still utilise hand held floats from time to time, but they have largely been replaced by the use of a power float.

We highly recommend an annual examination of every horse’s mouth, with dental work performed where required. Please call the clinic if you would like to book in your horse for a dental examination keeping in mind that we are more than happy to travel and offer group discounts.  Additionally, we can easily tie the job in with other husbandry procedures such as vaccinations and drenching for example.

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NSW 2644

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Holbrook Vet Centre · 18 Byng St · Holbrook, Nsw 2644 · Australia

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