Torch Farm Newsletter – May 2018

Includes case studies on our mastitis tracking service, news about vaccinations against infectious abortion, Diary Dates and more

Please click the link to view as a PDFMay Newsletter


Each case of mastitis clearly has a cost associated with it. 

The total cost per case and across the herd can be calculated based upon direct costs of treatment, milk with-hold during treatment as well as time and labour costs.

Extended costs include reduced milk yield for remainder of lactation, increased cell count with associated reduced yields and lost quarters/lost cows.

Various studies have assessed the overall costs with AHDB indicating a cost per clinical case ranging from £149-£250.

Setting and knowing your targets:

When assessing mastitis rates on any farm, we use the established industry targets of 25 cases per 100 cows per year across the herd with targets for dry period origin and lactation period origin as follows:

• Dry period origin (mastitis occurring 1-30 days into lactation) of 1 case per 12 calving cows (8%)

• Lactation origin (mastitis occurring between 31 and 305 days into lactation) of 2 cases per 12 cows in milk (16%)

What is the Torch Mastitis Tracker Service?

Our mastitis tracker service:

❶ Reviews on-farm recorded mastitis and somatic cell count data against targets using Total Vet (software designed by recognised mastitis specialists)

This determines main origins of mastitis on your farm e.g. if cases stem from the environment or contagions, during lactation or dry periods.

It will also identify where targets are being exceeded, allowing for possible improvements and cost savings

❷ Provides an overview of on-farm risk factors

❸ Assesses the main bacterial causes of clinical cases of mastitis and chronic infection (chronic high cell count cows)

❹ Reviews effectiveness of current treatment approach

❺ Provides a summary of current performance and recommendations based upon the above approach.


Total Vet analysis identified:

• Gradual increase in SCC over previous 18 months

• Reduction in ‘clinical case’ cure rate over previous 12 months

• Reduced ‘dry period’ cure rate 2017 compared to 2016

• Above target cow and total lactation origin mastitis rate 2017-18

Using targeted quarter sampling using Q-scout, the following selection of results were obtained from chronically infected high cell count cows:

The priority action with this herd was to address the identified ‘contagious’ bacteria (Staph aureus) risk and spread during lactation.


❶ Adjusting clinical mastitis and drying off protocols

• Extending the duration of clinical case treatment

• Changing dry cow antibiotic tube selection

❷ Implementing a more targeted management of chronic high cell count cows 

• Drying off quarter(s) or cow

• Selective cull based upon cure probability and risk

❸ Reducing the risk of spreading bacteria (Staph aureus) between cows (turn off the tap)

• Chronic high cell count cows were grouped and milked last at turn out

• Cluster disinfection between cows with the introduction of cluster flush system in time, to reduce risk of spread of contagious bacteria between cows during milking.


Analysis of heifer clinical mastitis in Herd B revealed above target dry period origin rates (mastitis occurring less than 30 days in to lactation) in August, September and October 2016.

We identified the risk as environmental challenge (wet weather) when heifers were calving at grass during the seasonal calving block.

Discussions were had on alterations to management ahead of the 2017 calving period and as a result, heifers were managed on ‘clean’ pasture through August and then housed to better assure controlled environmental management.


• Improved heifer rates to within target overall

• Above target rates in Aug but within target Sep and Oct

For more information on how the use of Mastitis Tracker can significantly reduce treatment, management and labour costs in addition to improving milk yield, please contact the Torch Team or speak to your lead farm vet


With over a quarter of lamb losses shown to occur through abortion or stillbirth at an estimated cost of £30 million to the industry (2011 figures) it is clear that there is significant room for improvement. So what can be done? 

Sales figures from the vaccine manufacturers indicate that only an estimated one third of the UK breeding stock are vaccinated against Toxoplasma and Enzootic abortion, yet surveillance data from 2015 showed that 80% of flocks have evidence of exposure to Toxoplasma, 52% to Enzootic abortion, and 43% to both infections. 

It is not just the cost to the industry which is important in this era of targets for reducing antibiotic use in agriculture. RUMA (the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance) and other key stakeholders have identified control of infectious ovine abortion through vaccination as a key area for reducing antibiotic use in the sheep sector. 

Data collected from the APHA and SAC diagnostic laboratories show Enzootic abortion followed by Toxoplasmosis as the most commonly diagnosed causes of ovine abortion consistently year after year. 


Our most recent ‘sheep selective’ final year vet student analysed all the diagnostic results from abortion material sent to Starcross from the 2013-2017 lambing seasons, and compared this to vaccination rates within the affected flocks. Interestingly this analysis showed that Toxoplasmosis was the most common cause of abortion at 22% of submissions, in contrast to the UK pattern. Enzootic abortion accounted for 9% of submissions. This probably reflects a higher level of vaccination against Enzootic abortion (45%) than Toxoplasma (29%) in these flocks. 


The best time to vaccinate your ewes is before you experience an abortion outbreak- it is not uncommon for losses to reach 20% of lambs if an outbreak occurs. Plan ahead – the vaccines are difficult to manufacture and sometimes supply becomes an issue. Ewes can be vaccinated up to 4 months before tupping so don’t delay once you have selected your replacements. 

If you are not sure if your ewes are at risk we still offer subsidised blood testing on up to 8 barren or aborted ewes from the most recent lambing period. 

Contact us to find out more or arrange for testing. We also have a cost calculator to demonstrate the cost benefit of vaccination. 


Worm egg counts are an important diagnostic tool for improving your flock health and preventing unnecessary drenching (which can lead to wormer resistance and will also save you money). 

It is important to check for worms regularly – ideally every 3-4 weeks during high risk periods. 

We are now using a technique called FECPAK© which is accurate to 30epg, giving the best result possible! 


A minimum of 10 dung samples should be taken or 10 for every 100 animals in a group. 

Gather ewes/lambs into an area of clean hard standing for 5 minutes then let them move away quietly. 

Pick up fresh/warm samples in an individual glove or sealed bag- you need a minimum of 5g per sample (but as much dung as possible please) selecting at random, don’t just choose loose/scouring samples. 

Label each group clearly with farm name, group ID, when they were last treated and the age of the group. 

Bring in to your nearest practice as soon as possible after collection (preferably not on a Friday afternoon).



Thu 10 May: 10am with Kiera Schubert 

Thu 7 June: 10am with Emily Linton 

These courses will be held at; 

Charter Veterinary Hospital, Roundswell, Barnstaple EX31 3FG 

Please speak to Kiera or Emily for more information, or call reception to book your place. 


Tue 12th June 

We may all still be wading through mud but in the hope that warmer times are approaching, we are combining our next farm meeting with a BBQ at Cleave Farm, Weare Giffard EX39 4QX. 

If you’d like to discover more about how to tap into the genetic potential of your herd using proven technology, and see the results in action, please get in touch. 

Attendees will be able to view and rank the heifers, then listen to the results from Clarifide which will be included in a presentation given by Torch Vet Sophia, all whilst munching on a burger or two. 

Please contact the Bideford office on 01237 420118 or email 

to book your space. 

Torch Farm Newsletter – May 2018