The health plan on Tullamore Farm is all about disease prevention rather than treatment. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the greatest proportion of the farm’s veterinary bill is made up of vaccination costs.
The 2021 vet bill for the farm has been broken down into either sheep or cattle enterprises and divided into the sub-categories of: callout charges, treatment drugs, vaccines, testing, dosing and minerals.
Dividing the total cattle vet bill by the number of cows calved in 2021 returns a cost of €100/cow for the year. The same exercise for the ewes sees an annual veterinary cost of €16/ewe lambed.
On the beef side of the operation, vaccines account for 32% of the annual cattle vet bill.
As the herd is not closed, with a small number of dairy x limousin heifers purchased in each year, there needs to be a rigorous health protocol in place to minimise disease and maximise production.
Cows are vaccinated annually against BVD and leptospirosis pre-breeding.
They also receive a scour vaccine ahead of calving in early January.
The calves receive a pneumonia vaccination at 10 days old for RSV and PI3 with the booster administered two weeks later.
At the same time as the booster, they receive a single-shot IBR vaccination. They also receive a double-dose vaccination against clostridial diseases.
Treatment drugs are the next biggest spend on the cattle vet bill, accounting for 18% of the total spend. This includes antibiotics and anti-inflammatories. Respiratory disease accounts for the greatest use of drugs in this category, despite an extensive vaccination programme.
An outbreak of pneumonia in a batch of calves during a period of poor weather in May 2021 saw a spike in the use of treatment drugs.
Testing makes up the next biggest proportion of the cattle bill at 18%. This includes any blood work that is carried out on the farm, dung testing, bull fertility testing and any calf that dies is sent for a post-mortem.
For the sheep, vaccinations make up over 50% of the total veterinary bill on a per-ewe basis. This includes all replacements purchased in receiving a vaccination against both enzootic abortion and toxoplasmosis. All breeding sheep are put on a clostridial vaccination protocol with annual boosters given pre-breeding.
Aside from vaccinations, dosing is the next biggest contributor to the overall vet bill at 19% of the annual sheep cost.
The majority of this would be in the form of worm treatment to the lambs. Only 14% of the annual vet bill for the sheep is made up of treatment drugs, most of which are administered around lambing time.
Callout charges account for just 1% of the sheep total and less than 10% of the cattle total. This is not to say the farm doesn’t have a very close relationship with Donal Lynch and his team at Slieve Bloom Veterinary practice. In fact it is a result of quite the opposite.
There is an annual meeting on farm with the vet to go over the health programme and make tweaks where necessary.
A working health protocol between farmer and vet, alongside a skilled stockperson in farm manager Shaun Diver, all work together to minimise any health issues on the farm.