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Focus on Livestock Health and Nutrition at Ayrshire Monitor Farm Meeting

John Howie from Girtridge Farm

The next North Ayrshire Monitor farm meeting on Friday 16 November will focus on livestock health and nutrition.

At the meeting, which will be held at Girtridge Farm, Dundonald, a line-up of animal health and nutrition experts will lead discussions about the control of a range of diseases often seen at this time of the year, including pneumonia and lung worm in cattle and liver fluke in sheep.

Vet Megan Wilson from SAC Consulting’s Veterinary Investigation Centre at Auchincruive, will highlight quarantine guidelines for farmers bringing new stock onto their farms.  These are essential to reduce or prevent the introduction of new diseases onto their farm from other farms.

John Howie runs the 140-hectare Girtridge farm and currently finishes around 300 cattle all year round, some housed and others from grass.

As he sources store cattle between 15-24 months of age from both Ayr market and privately, he is aware of the risks of bringing new stock onto his farm and understands the importance of quarantining new stock on arrival to minimise the risk of introducing disease to his herd.

He said: “We source store cattle throughout the year and try to keep them separate from the main herd for as long as we practically can in case they begin to show any signs of disease.”

He added: “At this time of year we also treat them for worms, especially lung worm, and vaccinate them for IBR before we mix them with the other stock.”

As Mr Howie houses all his cattle over the winter months he is keen to ensure his buildings have adequate ventilation and is currently adapting them to increase ventilation and minimise the risk of pneumonia developing in this stock.

Girtridge also has 350 ewes and gimmers going to the tup this year. While pointing out that he hasn’t had a significant problem with liver fluke in his own flock in the past, Mr Howie is aware some of the land at Girtridge is low-lying which is the perfect environment for mud snails, which support the life cycle of the fluke parasite.

Autumn and early winter are when acute liver fluke cases are most commonly seen, so SAC vet Marion McMillan, also from Auchencruive, will explain the signs of liver fluke in sheep during the meeting and advise farmers how they can detect, treat and prevent the problem in their flocks.

Finally, SAC nutritionist Karen Stewart will share her knowledge on beef nutrition and how farmers can efficiently maximise the growth of their cattle while indoors.

Mr Howie has been working with Ms Stewart to develop a ration for the finishing cattle at Girtridge which includes home grown silage, hay and winter and spring barley, with straw being kept for bedding.

 “To help minimise costs, we are trying to make the most of what we have and reduce the need to buy feed in,” said Mr Howie.

He added: “Although the results of the second cut silage analysis was disappointing this year, we were really pleased with the performance of our winter barley. As a result we have sown an extra 15 acres of it this autumn, taking the total to 35 acres to help boost winter feed supplies in the future.”

The North Ayrshire Monitor Farm is one of nine monitor farms that have been established across Scotland in a joint initiative by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds, with funding from the Scottish Government. The aim of the programme is to help improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of Scottish farm businesses.

The meeting at Girtridge Farm on 16 November will begin at 10.30am and finish at around 2.30pm. Lunch will be provided. All are welcome and the event is free.

For catering purposes, those interested in coming along on 16 November should confirm attendance by calling 01292 525252 or emailing FBSAyr@sac.co.uk

For more information about the monitor farm programme visit www.monitorfarms.co.uk