As the weather warms, lambing and calving begin, heralding the busiest time of year for farm vets, says Damory’s Laura Sage BVSc (Dist) MRCVS.
Spring is finally here – the busiest time of year for our team of farm vets. On top of the usual routine work we are busy tending to emergencies ranging from difficult births and Caesarean sections to poorly calves being placed on fluid drips and hospitalised here at the practice. For all newborn animals, a good intake of colostrum (mother’s first milk) is essential. This contains nutrients and antibodies to provide energy and temporary immunity to newborns, so it is vital in preventing diseases such as “joint ill” (joint infection) and “scour” (gut infections causing diarrhoea). Close attention must be paid to whether calves and lambs drink enough colostrum; if not, they need to be supplemented by bottle or stomach tube.
One common condition we treat in cows who have recently given birth is ‘milk fever’ (low blood calcium), which can quickly become fatal. Sheep can also get milk fever before lambing if they have any kind of stress or diet change.
Watch your dog
Please take care walking dogs at this time of year. Pregnant ewes can abort their lambs or suffer milk fever with the stress of a dog approaching, even if “they’re just playing”. This is devastating for all involved, so please keep dogs on leads around sheep.
Cows with calves at foot can also be nervous of dogs and people. Don’t walk between cows and calves, or allow dogs to ‘play’ with inquisitive calves, as their mothers can be protective.
Walk calmly and quietly through the field, and make sure you have an ‘escape route’ planned if you are worried.
Although busy, spring is full of variety and excitement, and the most rewarding time of year for us. Bringing new life into the world never gets old!