Torch Farm Vets Newsletter – November 2017

Meeting Report- Managing Grass for Ewe Productivity

In October Bridget and John Goscomb kindly hosted a meeting on their farm near North Molton. The focus of the meeting was to put into context feeding strategies discussed at an evening meeting earlier in the year, and to demonstrate how Bridget and John make excellent use of high quality forage to reduce their feed bill at lambing time.

Attendees rotated around three stations examining different aspects of grass management and sheep management.

Jenny Schmidt’s group compared body condition scores of some ewes, then went on to calculate a feed budget to get a weaned ewe in optimal condition by tupping time. This involved using a sward stick to measure available grazing, calculate how long it will last and how much supplementary concentrate might be required.

In the second group Bridget talked through the whole process from selecting when to cut their silage, having it analysed and finally showing the set-up in the lambing shed for feeding the ewe ration. Liz Nabb also demonstrated the ration calculation with the Goscomb’s latest silage analysis, comparing their clamp silage to a bale silage of much lower protein content.

Guto Wynne focused on ways in which antibiotics use in our flocks can be reduced at a time when external pressure to do this is increasing. He explained current methods for antibiotic benchmarking in European herds and flocks, and the progress of UK research into how this can be done in our domestic flocks.

Bridget and John’s system is not suitable for every farm, but it does show the advantages of making the best forage possible for pregnant ewes, and using forge analysis to feed a balanced ration.


Synchronising Your Heifers

An increasing number of our clients are using synchronisation programmes to AI their heifers. Reasons are varied and include choice of a better sire, reducing the reliance on a bull or to reduce the need for heat detection and handling.

At Torch Farm Vets we regularly review our treatment protocols to make sure that we offer the best possible service. Heifers have a slightly different oestrus cycle to cows; large US studies have shown a five day synchronisation programme might be more effective. It also involves handling the heifers only twice pre service, which is easier for the farmer and the heifer.

Day 0 Inject and insert CIDR

Day 5 Inject and remove CIDR

Day 8 Inject and serve

We were able to part fund a small study on 10 local farms (dairy and beef), to see how it worked in N. Devon. The average conception rate was 54%, similar to natural service. One achieved an impressive 81%.

Please speak to your vet if you think that synchronising heifers may be useful in your system.


Women In Dairy

Thank you to AHDB for inviting us to speak at their recent Women in Dairy Meeting.

‘Effective Use of Pain Relief In Cows and Calves’

The drugs commonly used for pain relief in cattle are non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Metacam, Ketofen and Flunixin.

  • An animal treated with a NSAID is more likely to eat, gain weight, milk, even conceive better.
  • The anti inflammatory also works directly on the affected tissue to improve healing eg. In the case of a sole ulcer.
  • Reducing inflammation may help antibiotics get into the affected tissue eg. Lungs or udder
  • Last, but by no means least, it helps the animal to feel more comfortable. Everybody (men and women!) aims to avoid suffering in their animals wherever possible.

Cows Mastitis

Many farmers now use anti-inflammatories as part of their mastitis treatment protocol.  We discussed the cost of a case of mastitis (hard to put a number to, but definitely enough to try to want to reduce recurrence!).  NSAIDs reduce pain, improve cures and have been shown to reduce the chance of a cow being culled for mastitis.


The most effective treatment for a cow with a claw horn lesion (eg. Sole ulcer, white line disease) has been shown to be a corrective trim + block + anti-inflammatory.  


We need a cow (or heifer) to be quickly up on her feet, eating and staying healthy after calving.  Metacam after calving has been shown to improve rates of activity and eating in cattle.  This is perhaps unsurprising, especially in the case of a difficult birth.


NSAIDs are regularly used in the treatment of pneumonia, both studies and personal communications confirm that this improves cure rates.  It has also been shown to improve slaughter weights; suggesting far reaching impacts on growth rates.

Castration and Disbudding

Recently the British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA) and the British Veterinary Association (BVA) have released a statement outlining the need for pain relief in calves for disbudding and castration.  It is a legal requirement to use local anaesthetic when disbudding, we are now also recommending non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Metacam/Ketofen to manage pain and keep calves healthy.

**Disbudding and any method used to castrate a bull, from birth to 2 months of age, should mean they get NSAIDs, to reduce pain and inflammation.**

To maintain the welfare of our cattle, pain relief is essential to manage acute and chronic pain caused by both procedures at the time and for the following couple of days. A calf suffering from pain will not eat properly, will lose weight and is more susceptible to other infections.

A number of you will be accustomed to using Metacam/ Ketofen when disbudding or castrating yourselves or when a vet or vet tech comes to do these tasks.  The majority of clients who use both on their stock have seen a remarkable difference in calves following these painful procedures now the pain is managed correctly.  There demeanour is improved, they show less ear flicking/discomfort and take their milk better.  Calves have been shown to gain an extra 0.6kg in the surrounding days when pain relief is used at disbudding.

For more information on this please speak to your vet.


Diary Dates

  • Bideford Rugby

      Sat 11th Nov

      3pm Kick off


  • Cattle AI Course

      13th –15th Nov 17

4 Day Course

(Inc.1 refresher day)

£445 + VAT

For more information or to book your place please give us a call


  • AHDB Free Sheep ‘Live to Dead’ Events

8th, 16th, 23rd, 29th  November

For more information please visit:


Nov 17 NL


Torch Farm Vets Newsletter – November 2017