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We are launching an additional component to our mastitis investigation service. 

VaDia can help to optimise milking efficiency and reduce the incidence of mastitis within your herd.

When milking cows, the objectives we work towards include:

• Quick • Clean

• Comfortable • Complete

Udder health problems can be related to the milking equipment, many times in combination with other identified factors.

Milking time machine testing with VaDia will give insight into:

• Cow preparation (Bi-modal milking)

• Overmilking

• Automatic take-off functioning

• Do the liners fit these teats?

• Teat-end vacuum during peak flow

• Vacuum level and fluctuations

A bit about VaDia…

VaDia logs the vacuum during milking at four points in the milking cluster. It is battery operated and small and lightweight enough to be attached to a teat-cup during milking. VaDia is the ideal instrument for milking time testing.

Interested? Contact your usual surgery, or speak to a team member today, to find out more.


Grass growth this summer has been spectacular and autumn calving cows will be extremely fit in many cases with the risk of associated calving difficulties. Specialist beef advisors released the following advice for farmers last week which we thought was worthwhile sharing: 

• Delay weaning for as long as possible but ensure that every cow is weaned at least  3 weeks before she is due to calve to ensure adequate build up of colostrum 

• Put cows on the poorest pasture possible maximising their grazing time and hence their exercise and fitness.  This would not be best for the calf at foot so creep feeding would be required

• An alternative option is to wean cows early, put their calves on to aftermaths and heavily graze dry cows on poor quality pastures. As a rough guide, stocking rates should be double normal numbers

• With later calvers being the fittest it might be worthwhile splitting the herd and weaning at different times

• Always ensure sufficient minerals are available, in particular Magnesium

• Consider housing the fattest cows so that feed intakes can be controlled.  The target for a 650kg cow would be around 70MJ ME / day.  As well as minerals and vitamins ensure that the ration supplies at least 10% crude protein

• Turn cows and calves back out to grass asap after calving with a high Magnesium mineral available.


Isolation units are an underused contingency plan to help both calf sellers and rearers continue to trade in the face of a TB breakdown. 

Their purpose is to demonstrate freedom from TB in a group of animals from a single restricted holding. This enables them to be managed or sold as unrestricted stock.

Who might find an isolation unit a useful precaution against TB break down?

• Dairy units who normally sell calves

• Suckler units who normally sell busk calves or stirks

• Calf rearers who regularly buy calves from a single farm (if seller were to go under restriction)

• Farms wishing to buy calves from a dairy farm finding it difficult to sell restricted calves via a collection centre

What is an isolation unit?

• Generally, it’s a shed in which to house low-risk calves undergoing TB testing with the aim of getting them clear

• Has its own CPH

• Has strict biosecurity protocols: is secure from wildlife and poses no TB transmission risk to other livestock on the holding

• Can only fill it in a 6 week window with cattle from single holding (this may be your own holding)

• Cattle over six weeks of age must have had a clear TB test in the previous 30 days

• Once the TB Isolation Unit has been filled and closed, testing within the unit will be at 60 day intervals by APHA

• After two clear consecutive tests have been completed, and providing the last test is at least 120 days after the date that the unit was closed, restrictions may be lifted

• Once depopulated, cleaned and disinfected, can be restocked with animals from a new holding (new license required).

Setting up an isolation unit

IUs can only be set up on an unrestricted holding. They don’t have to be stocked, so you can have an IU as a contingency plan in case of a TB break down.

Currently there are no fees to apply for isolation units. APHA could change this in the future. The online application form takes approximately 15 mins, licence approval is likely to take around 6 weeks.

A Veterinary Risk Assessment visit is required from an APHA inspector. This can be performed before any work or investment is made. In part, it is an advisory visit to ensure your proposed unit meets requirements.

Requirements for an isolation unit

• Must be a separate building to other cattle housing. Ideally, the IU would be a shed somewhere not in the main farm yard

• Must not share an air space with other cattle housing or allow draining effluent to enter cattle housing or grazing

• Must be wildlife proofed

• Strict biosecurity with respect to personnel and equipment

• Cannot be used to house other cattle when not in use as an isolation unit

• If effective electric fencing is in place, hutches or a modular calf housing system such as www.calfigloo.com should meet requirements and not need planning approval.

A TB Advisory Service visit can give you more ideas on improving your farm’s TB resilience, as well as help setting up a TB Isolation Unit. Contact your Torch branch and ask to speak to one of our TBAS advisors, Jenny Schmidt, Ann Symons, Adam Reid or Jen Burnett.


Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA) are piloting arrangements to simplify the reporting of bovine abortions.

It is a legal requirement for anyone in charge of bovine animals to report any abortion or premature calving, within 24 hours of believing it to have occurred, whether the calf is dead or alive. 

Abortion or premature calving is defined as occurring less than 271 days after service or less than 265 after implantation for embryo transfer.

Brucellosis is a serious disease of cattle that causes abortion in late pregnancy, premature calvings, abortion storms and high levels of infertility. It also causes disease in people. The UK is Officially Free of Brucellosis but there is a continued risk to the cattle population. APHA carries out ongoing surveillance to look for any incidence of the disease and an important component of this surveillance is the investigation of bovine abortions. In 2004, Brucellosis in a cattle herd in the South West of England was promptly identified following the investigation of an abortion in the herd. This enabled rapid action to be taken to eradicate the disease from the affected farm and prevent spread to other cattle holdings.

To simplify the reporting process Torch Farm Vets will now be able to process notifications of abortions from our clients, and will be able to advise whether further investigation is required. If authorised by APHA, the visit and sampling for Brucellosis is covered by APHA.


wet end to August has led to severe risk of blowfly strike for both ewes and late lambs across the south-west. If the current conditions prevail, this risk is likely to continue well into September.

High numbers of flies and warm wet weather create the perfect conditions for strike and high levels of surveillance remain essential for early prevention and treatment. Strike can develop very quickly, with the first maggots appearing within 12 hours of eggs being laid.

If a preventative treatment has not yet been applied, please do so ASAP to dramatically reduce the risk to your flock – speak to your local surgery to find out the most appropriate product to use.


Phase I of the Action Johne’s Initiative focused on education and engagement and was concluded in October 2018. Phase 2 will conclude in October 2019. 

However, an earlier deadline is set by some milk buyers. A declaration confirming that a risk assessment has been conducted and the Johne’s management plan has been reviewed will have to be produced by farmers that joined the initiative.

What do I need to do?

Management protocols, testing regime and a risk assessment will have to be discussed with your vet who will issue an updated plan based on the actions implemented in 2018, the farm history and Johne’s status.

What If I haven’t done anything in 2018?

You will still need to go through the steps described above as well as having to fill in the year one assessment. Please inform your vet whether this is your case as a different form will be needed.


We always endeavour  to get dung samples brought in before midday tested and reported on the same day.

For samples brought in during the afternoon testing cannot be completed on the same day. If there is a long delay between sampling and testing the reliability of the results can reduce.

So if you are dropping off a WEC, the earlier in the day the better, and not at all on Friday afternoons if at all possible, please!  


Our annual matchday hospitality afternoon will this year take place on Saturday 16 November.

More details to follow soon…