Gold standard animal healthcare at the centre of Wagyu beef enterprise

Revolutionary processes and a tried and tested animal health programme at Moss Hill Farm in Co. Antrim is paving the way to bring some of the world’s most coveted Wagyu beef to market.

Gary Fitzpatrick has been utilising the Bovilis vaccines along with Consultant and Supply Chain Specialist Dr Ryan Law to roll out a tailor-made vaccination and nutrition regime, which is not only producing the finest quality Wagyu beef, but in half the time.

Wagyu beef is one of the most prized meats in the world and that’s down to the marbling. It’s unparalleled in flavour but also boasts a range of health benefits for the consumer due to its high levels of Omega 3 and 6.

It usually takes up to 36 months to rear and finish Wagyu cattle, but Moss Hill is doing it in 15 months, not only improving economic efficiency but making a positive impact on the carbon footprint of this beef production system.

Gary Fitzpatrick says with 450 animals now in the supply chain, animal health is a centre focus for the WagyuGold enterprise: “We believe prevention is better than cure and that is clearly delivering results. Our robust vaccination programme starts for the calves entering the rearing unit at 3 weeks old.

“Here they are protected from a range of respiratory diseases using Bovilis® IBR Marker Live and Bovilis® Bovipast® RSP. We’ve used these products to protect our cattle here on the farm for many years, so we know the animals perform well using this programme. The calves get a shot of Bovilis® IBR Marker Live and Bovipast® RSP on the same day and a booster shot of Bovipast® RSP 4 weeks later.” This combination offers a very broad range of protection against some of the most common pneumonia causing agents.

“With Wagyu beef, the key to quality meat is a lack of stress in the animal, so maintaining good health is paramount. Vaccination reduces the risk of sickness which, in turn, improves our productivity.

“We’ve created a comfortable, pathogen-controlled environment using pressure ventilated housing. This combined with the tailored nutrition programme has resulted in calm and content cattle with no pressure at the feed trough, which is what I like to see.”

Elite Pedigree Genetics sourced semen from the top herds globally, focusing on marbling score and fineness. The first calves arrived at the farm, based near Craigavon, in March 2021 at an average weight of 40kgs.

Calves were immediately placed on Anupro’s nutritional regime which optimises performance on a low milk, early weaning system and were weaned after 30 days on farm, with minimal health issues.

Growth rates were exceptional considering calves were from of cross-bred cows, reaching target weights ahead of expectation. The rearing programme enhances immune function and creates a positive energy balance where metabolic programming starts from a very early age.

Gary Fitzpatrick added: “In the current climate, this feeding programme is low cost and suitable for all calf rearing systems, resulting in high performance and low antibiotic usage.”

The calves also get a two-shot primary course given 4 weeks apart of Bravoxin-10 which provide protection against clostridial disease. During the finishing period cattle have access to grass and specialised feed which is continuously monitored to ensure the animals are receiving the correct nutritional requirements.

A growing consumer appetite for traceable, locally bred produce gave Gary and Ryan an opportunity to explore creating an independent supply chain. Now they’ve not only created a high-end beef product but can ensure consistency, ultimately delivering the best consumer experience possible.

Even though the business is relatively new, Dr Ryan Law says they’re keen to grow: “We are currently collecting calves from around 30 dairy farms across Ireland. Wagyu’s have a short gestation period and are very easy calved which is an ideal combination for a dairy farmer. We would support any participating farmer with the blueprint we’ve put in place here at Moss Hill which will help ultimately deliver a luxury eating experience for the consumer.”

This robust animal healthcare programme offering an efficient and economically beneficial prospect to farmers across Ireland. The business is hoping to start selling the product within a few months and is in conversation with both independent meat sellers and a large luxury national retailer.

For more information on any of the vaccines or diseases mention in the above, talk to your vet.


Prevent coccidiosis in calves and lambs using Vecoxan

Vecoxan® is used for the prevention of coccidiosis in calves and lambs. For more information on Vecoxan, including how and why to use it, watch the video below.

To prevent disease and reduce the impact of sub-clinical disease, treatment using Vecoxan® should be administered close to the time when exposure to coccidiosis is known to occur.

Exposure is required for protective immunity to develop. Therefore, treatments should be administered 8-15 days after moving to a high-risk environment or if historical data is available, approximately one week before the expected outbreak.

How to use Vecoxan – ‘No one size fits all’

There is ‘no one size fits’ all for treating coccidiosis on farms. It is important to speak to your vet about the best approach for your farm.

Historical treatment

Treat whole group 1 week before expected clinical signs: Requires excellent records, knowledge of previous coccidiosis outbreaks & management history in herd/flock.

Unknown

Treat 2 weeks after exposure or treat at time of stress factor (e.g. dehorning, castration, transport, weaning, regrouping etc.)

Clinical Outbreak

Reactive treatment: Treat all calves in a group when diarrhoea is first seen in 1 or 2 calves/lambs

It is important to always treat all the calves in the group, as coccidiosis is a group problem, not an individual problem.

A single administration to susceptible animals during risk periods is appropriate although a re-treatment may be necessary if the period of risk is prolonged.

Why use Vecoxan?

  1. Flexible product
  2. Licensed to prevent coccidiosis in both lambs and calves
  3. Allows natural immunity to develop (1)
  4. Higher daily live weight gain following use of diclazuril (2)
  5. Environmentally friendly (3)

Check our new Vecoxan brochure

References

  1. Philippe, P., Alzieu, J.P., Taylor, M.A. and Dorchies, P., 2014. Comparative efficacy of diclazuril (Vecoxan®) and toltrazuril (Baycox bovis®) against natural infections of Eimeria bovis and Eimeria zuernii in French calves. Veterinary parasitology206(3-4), pp.129-137.
  2. Agneessens J, Goossens L, Louineau J, Daugschies A and Veys P (2006). Build up of immunity after a diclazuril (Vecoxan) treatment in calves, Poster at World Buiatrics Congress, Nice.
  3. Van Leemput L. & Louineau., (2007). Diclazuril for coccidiosis in ruminants: safe for the environment? Janseen Animal Health, Beerese, Belgium.

Pr€vention for Profit competition: Judging

The standard is very high for this year’s Pr€vention for Profit competition with the judges very impressed with each of the four finalists.

This week, the judging for this year’s competition took place with the judges traveling to all four corners of Ireland to meet each of the lucky finalists.

The judges were particularly struck by the the attention to detail by all farmers. Each farmer was committed to rearing all their calves to the highest of standard and demonstrated care and compassion for their animals in doing so.

From birth through to weaning, each farmer was implementing best practice when is came to calf rearing and were excellent examples of how Irish dairy farmers are rearing calves on farms.

The ‘Pr€vention for Profit’ competition this year is focused on the newborn calf. The #MyCalfOurFuture concept is to highlight the importance of the newborn calf, to the future and sustainability of the farm, the farmer and their family and their rural economy.

The finalists were judged on the four key pillars of production. These pillars are nutrition, genetics, management and animal health; together giving an indication of that farms performance and profitability. 

Through this competition we aim to showcase the management of Irish dairy calves by identifying farmers that implement best practice with regard to calf rearing.

The winning farmer will receive an all-expenses paid study tour to mainland Europe where they will get to spend some time on the top performing dairy farms to see and learn how their systems operate.

Keep an eye out in the Irish Farmer’s Journal where we will be featuring each of the four finalists!


It’s back – The Pr€vention for Profit competition

Now we’re looking for the best dairy calf rearer in the country! #MyCalfOurFuture

Competition Details

This year, the Pr€vention for Profit competition is focused on calves. The #MyCalfOurFuture concept highlights the importance of the newborn calf to the sustainability of the farm, the farmer, their family and the rural economy.

Prevention for Profit competition

This competition is aimed at dairy farmers who are maximising their on-farm profitability by focusing on the four key pillars of production – Nutrition, Genetics, Management and Animal Health. We aim to showcase the management of Irish dairy calves by identifying farmers who implement best practice when it comes to calf rearing.

Of those that enter the competition, there will be one dairy farmer selected from each of the four provinces as finalists. The four finalists will be assessed based on the four pillars of production. A panel of four judges will conduct a single half day farm visit to assess their calves’ level of productivity and profitability.

The winning farmer will win an all-expenses paid study tour to mainland Europe to visit some top-performing dairy farms, to see and learn how they operate. For your chance to win, click the link below. Good luck!

Please read the terms and conditions of the competition, here.


Bovilis Scour Vaccine – The leading calf scour vaccine

The Bovilis Scour Vaccine is a single-shot injectable vaccination, given to pregnant cows to subsequently help protect the calf from diarrhoea caused by rotavirus, coronavirus and E. coli (k99), once the calf has been fed sufficient colostrum.

The Bovilis Scour Vaccine is a single 2ml vaccine. It is administered to pregnant cattle 12 – 3 weeks prior to calving. It is given into the muscle of the animal.

scour vaccine

The Bovilis Scour Vaccine will stimulate the dam to produce antibodies which will protect the calf against rotavirus, coronavirus and E.coli (K99). These antibodies will be stored in the dam’s colostrum. The dam will pass these antibodies to the calf through the colostrum at the first milk feeding.

This is why is is crucial that the calf receives adequate colostrum as soon as possible after birth.

Remember the 1,2,3 rule when feeding colostrum. In the 1st 2 hours, ensure the calf gets at least 3 litres of colostrum. Feeding the calf good quality colostrum will enhance the protection of the calf against these scour causing pathogens.

New additions to the Bovilis Scour Vaccine

The Bovilis Scour Vaccine has undergone some recent changes. The following are some of the changes to note:

  • The vaccine pack has changed from blue to purple packaging.
  • A new 50 dose pack size, is now available to complement our current 5 dose and 20 dose presentations and to support use whatever the herd size.
  • All presentations are being transitioned from glass to a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle, instead of glass vials, to reduce the risk of breakage.
scour vaccine

Bovilis Scour Vaccine – How does it work?

  • Single shot primary course
  • Low dose volume (2ml shot)
  • Intramuscular (IM) administration
  • Broad window of vaccination (Vaccinate pregnant cows 12-3 weeks pre-calving)
scour vaccine

Why choose the Bovilis Scour Vaccine?

  • Reduces the severity of diarrhoea caused by E. coli (K99)
  • Reduces the incidence of scours caused by rotavirus
  • Reduces the shedding of virus by calves infected with rotavirus and coronavirus
  • Unique 28 day in-use shelf life
  • Reduces the risk of breakage with new PET bottles
  • Available in 5, 20 and now 50 dose packs

NEW calf scour guide

Want to learn more about calf scour and how you can use the Bovilis Scour Vaccine to protect your calves against scour? Check out our NEW Calf Scour Guide by scrolling through the PDF document below.

Ask your vet about our new Calf Scour Guide and how you can use the Bovilis Scour Vaccine to help reduce the risk of calf scour occurring on your farm.


Do calves need an IBR vaccine?

Turning calves out to grass for the first time is seriously rewarding. Rearing healthy calves in the first place takes great effort and hard work.

Minimising the impact of diseases like diarrhea and pneumonia can be challenging and this year was no exception. Weaning dairy calves, dealing with coccidiosis threats, pneumonia and clostridial vaccination; the calf ‘to do’ list can be comprehensive. What about IBR vaccination?

IBR – Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis

Infection with IBR virus is widespread in the cattle population in Ireland, with evidence of exposure in over 70% of herds (both beef and dairy).  It is capable of causing disease (both clinical and subclinical) resulting in huge economic losses at farm level through lack of production and treatment costs.

The majority of infections are seen in cattle greater than six months of age, however all ages are at risk of IBR.

Clinical infections usually occur when animals are infected for the first time. Signs such as discharge from the eyes and nose, loud laboured breathing, high temperatures, resulting depression and reduced appetite may be experienced. Milk yield may be affected, and abortion may also occur.

Subclinical infections are those without overt clinical signs and for this reason may go unnoticed for some time in a herd. Subclinical IBR can result in losses of 2.6kg of milk/cow/day.

Those infected for the first time shed high levels of the virus for approximately two weeks. At times of stress (e.g. mixing/housing/breeding/calving) the virus can reactivate, and that animal may shed again. Every time an animal sheds the virus it has the potential to infect more herd mates.

Control of IBR

There are 3 components to controlling this endemic disease:

  1. Vaccination
  2. Biosecurity
  3. Culling

Vaccination

For effective control of IBR, vaccination must:

  • Reduce the number of new infections – Main cause of virus spreading in a herd
  • Reduce severity of clinical signs – Limit cost of disease impact

The time to start vaccination depends on the particular epidemiological situation of each farm. In the absence of virus circulation among the young calf group, vaccination is started at the age of three months, revaccination six months later and all subsequent revaccinations within six to 12 month periods.

This will provide protection against IBR virus and minimise the number of animals that become carriers. Herds that have a moderate to high seroprevalence of IBR, are high-risk and/or have clinical signs are best to remain on a six monthly vaccination programme until IBR is under better control in the herd.

If vaccination needs to be carried out before the age of three months (high prevalence/high-risk herds/disease in calves) then intranasal vaccination is the recommended route in order to overcome maternally derived antibodies.

An intramuscular vaccination programme then commences at three-four months of age, as stated above. For the spring calving herd this will mean calves will receive their first dose of a live IBR vaccine in June/July 2021.

Bovilis IBR Marker live

Bovilis IBR marker live provides protection by reducing clinical signs and virus excretion. It is the only single dose IBR marker vaccine for use either intranasally or intramuscularly. It is a 2ml dose with a fast onset of immunity (four days after intranasal administration and 14 days after intramuscular administration).

Biosecurity

Biosecurity can be further divided into bio exclusion and bio-containment.

Bio exclusion (the process of keeping disease out of a herd) is of particular importance in Ireland as many herds purchase cattle (e.g. the stock bull), avail of contract rearing for heifers, attend marts or shows (present Covid-19 restrictions excluded).

IBR can cross distances of up to five metres so neighbouring cattle during the grazing season can also be a source of infection, or vice versa.

Bio containment (the process of reducing the threat of infection within a herd) relies mainly on herd management strategies such as segregating age groups and indeed vaccination.

Culling

Culling of animals which have tested positive for IBR is a quick method to reduce herd prevalence. However, in many herds it is not a practical option as there are simply too many animals which are positive (once infected an animal becomes a life-long carrier) and therefore it would not be economically viable.

In summary, the majority of herds in Ireland are of medium or high seroprevalence so vaccination with a live IBR marker vaccine combined with biosecurity are the most practical and appropriate control methods. Many herds are missing a trick by only vaccinating the cows.

This is controlling clinical signs and the impact of IBR on production but not necessarily reducing the spread (to unvaccinated younger cattle) and therefore the number of new infections each year.

The aim of whole herd vaccination is to reduce the level of IBR in the herd over time. In answer to the opening question – yes; to IBR vaccination of calves.


Virtual Tour: Is Your Shed Ready For Housing?

See below, a virtual tour of a Teagasc shed. On the tour, we draw your attention to different areas which ensure optimal living conditions for the animals.


Bedding & Animal Space

When housing cattle, it is important to allow enough space for each animal to feed, drink and rest stress free. Animals of various sizes will have different space requirements. Always ensure that there is adequate bedding of clean, dry straw available during the housing period. Sheds should be bedded regularly to keep moisture levels low. To check, kneel in bedding for approximately 1 minute. If your knees are wet, the shed needs to be freshly bedded. The objective of bedding is to keep the animal clean and dry. Space requirement varies depending on shed type and the animal type. A suckler cow on straw will typically need 4 to 5 m2 of bedding space and weanlings on slats will need between 2 to 2.5 m2. For further information accommodation requirements see figure 1.

Figure 1: Winter accommodation for beef animals

Feed Space

When housing cattle this autumn, it is important that all bedding from the previous year has been removed and the shed has been thoroughly cleaned. All areas of the shed including the feeding area should be power washed and adequately disinfected from the previous year. Feed space requirements depend on the feed availability. A general rule of thumb is to ensure each animal can feed at the same time. Typically, a suckler cow requires a feed space of 600 mm with space for two cows to pass behind. Diagonal barriers have the advantage of less bullying and reduce the amount of feed taken into the pen. Allow for the bottom rail when deciding the height of the stub wall. The animal’s neck should not normally come in contact with the top rail with diagonal feed barriers. See figure 2 below for further animal space requirements.

Figure 2: Winter accommodation for beef animals

Ventilation

The objective of shed design is to ensure adequate air flow on a still day and to shelter animals on a day of high wind speeds. While this is possible for newly built sheds, older sheds may not be able to provide this function and rely on the stack effect. The stack effect is where the heat generated by animals in the building rises and is replaced by fresh air coming in at a lower level of the shed (above the wall, under the eaves or through the side sheeting/boarding). See figure 3 which illustrates this process.

Figure 3
Ventilation Calculations – Inlets and Outlets

The rate of ventilation is influenced by the size of the openings, the roof pitch and the difference between inlets and outlets. As a general rule of thumb, the inlet should be at least twice the size of the outlet. When designing a new building or improving an old one, it is important to calculate the area of outlet required in a roof to allow heat and moisture from the livestock to escape by natural convection. If making improvements to shed ventilation, inlet and outlet areas should be at least brought up to the sizes outlined in the DAFM specification S101. When considering inlet sheeting/boarding it is important to look at the function of each option. In certain situations either due to the layout or situation of a farm building, natural ventilation might be inadequate. In this instance, mechanical ventilation could be considered. You should consult with your agricultural consultant for the best advice on which sheeting/boarding to use which will depend on the prevailing wind direction, type of animal and number of animals to be housed in the shed.

Outlets
  • Ensure the outlet area is clean and clear.
  • General required outlet sizes can be seen in figure 4. These figures can be modified based on stocking densities and roof pitch.
Figure 4
Inlets
  • Inlets should be provided beneath eaves using either a continuous opening, louvered sheeting, plastic mesh, or space boarding.
  • The inlet area should be at twice the size of the outlet area to create a natural air flow.

Water Access

Clean water access is a primary requirement of all animal housing and must be available at all times. It is important that the location and height of the trough can accommodate all animals in that shed. Water is frequently spilt around water feeders. Ensure that the area around the feeder is well drained and any spilt water can drain away from the bedding area. Avoid placing feeders in areas where spilt water will pool creating flooded areas of the shed. Aim to give access to 10% of the group to drink at any one time. Animal water intake depends on the age and stage of lactation. See figure 5 for more detail

Figure 5

For further information regarding sheds modifications talk to you vet, your agricultural consultant or visit the Teagasc webpage through the link here.

Source:

  1. Ryan, T. & Lenehan, JJ. 2016 – Winter accommodation for beef animals Teagasc beef manual
  2. Anon 2013. – Calf house ventilation – The basics MSD Animal Health

Teagasc Green Acres Calf to Beef Programme


As part of the Green Acres program, Agriland have constructed a Calf Health and Management series. As part of that series, Suzanne Naughton from MSD Animal Health discussed some of the key challenges when purchasing calves and the role of vaccination throughout the rearing period.

While calf purchase price and the genetics of the calf are foremost in terms of making a profit on calf-to-beef systems, calf health is also a pillar which deserves significant consideration. Focusing on hygiene and vaccination is the best policy to ensuring this happens. Pneumonia and scour are the two major illnesses that compromise calf health and reduce lifetime performance.

Prevention is always better and cheaper than the cure and a health plan should be implemented on-farm. It should be noted that no amount of vaccination can overcome a lack of quality colostrum administered to the calf at birth and the bacterial and viral challenges calves face when the environment they are reared in is not up to scratch.

Check out the full video below for more information. Also, you can find out more about the vaccines mentioned in this video by clicking on them below
Bovilis INtranasal RSP Live
Bovipast RSP
Bovilis IBR Marker Live

Vaccine Management

Remember that correctly administering and storing vaccines is important to improve the success of a vaccination programme.

“Once you get your vaccines, they should be kept in the fridge until you are ready to go with your batch of animals.

“Vaccines should be made up according to the recommendations on the data sheet in the box – all the information on how much to administer and where is on the data sheet provided.

“Start with a clean needle and a clean syringe. If you are using an old dirty needle, you are increasing the likelihood of an abscess or lump developing.”