Large Animal Newsletter

December 2020


In this edition:

  • Pre joining ram inspections
  • Bull testing
  • Shearing sedation
  • Pain relief at calf marking
  • Equine Dentals

Pre joining ram inspections

Many of our lamb producers will have joining happening in no time at all. While we covered using teasers in our last newsletter, it is time to think about the rams and ensuring they are in the best condition for their upcoming work. These inspections should occur a minimum of 6 weeks prior to joining, to allow time for healing and return of proper semen production in rams that need health issues addressed, or for you to replenish ram numbers in any that need to be culled or rested for the season due to their ailments.

A general physical examination, condition assessment, checking of teeth, toes and testes are all critical in the most basic of ram assessments. This is also an ideal time to conduct brucellosis blood testing, to help ensure that one of the most common fertility issues that affect our sheep is not present on your farm, and so we can maximize the number of lambs on the ground at lambing. Our livestock vets are always happy to help advise on such a program, or come out and assist- this is a great job to be doing to fulfill our biennial on farm visit requirement for dispensing drugs.

Bull testing

The bulls also need some attention prior to working, and for many locals joining cattle will be upon us before we know it. Once again, we need to be addressing this earlier rather than later, to let any ailments heal, and to allow time to purchase more bulls if needed to replace or increase herd size. Some producers will choose to test before the summer/autumn bull sales to give themselves a practical and well guided opportunity to purchase new sires if required.

A veterinary bull breeding soundness examination (VBBSE) assesses structure, gait, lameness and external and internal reproductive organs, as well as a crush-side semen analysis to check the bulls are in full working order prior to joining. We also have the opportunity to send semen samples away to the lab for morphology assessment. These exams are recommended for all working bulls prior to joining, to minimize reproductive losses and maximize number of calves on the ground. Please phone the clinic to make your booking or with further questions.

Shearing sedation

Shearing is well underway, and we are getting daily phone calls needing sedation suddenly to be able to shear rams. We completely understand that in this year timing of shearing is particularly unconfirmed, and many farmers are getting teams in at very short notice.

Please remember, though, that to provide such a drug, we need to have an on farm visit at least once every 18-24 months in order to comply with prescription laws.

If you haven’t had us on property in that time, please phone early to organise your visit, even well before you are due to start shearing, so we can ensure we can provide you with sedation when you promptly need it. We are more than happy to provide any necessary vet jobs while out on farm, including sick stock assessment and treatment, bleeding for brucellosis or trace mineral assessments, pregnancy testing cattle, vaccinating working dogs or consultancy.

Pain relief at calf marking

While we have been covering use of pain relief in sheep at lamb marking in recent newsletters, it is important that we don’t forget our cattle counterparts! We have many pain relief/anti-inflammatory options for cattle available at the clinic for dispensing, and have many of our producers now reaching for these products when treating down cows, following tricky or hard calvings, or for reducing inflammation in injuries or in cases of infection to help antibiotics penetrate and work better.

Our routine husbandry procedures, like calf marking, do involve pain. While in many cases it is unavoidable, it is really important that we address it with appropriate pain relief to help promote best animal welfare and also to get them back to the paddock, reduce stress, improve appetite and get them recovered sooner. With the Cattle Council recently releasing pain relief recommendations for husbandry events, and with select markets already requesting the use of pain relief at marking for access, its reasonable to expect in the coming years it will be something that we will need to do, so lets be ready for it. Phone one of our livestock vets to have a chat about the pain relief options we have, and keep an eye out for the Autumn newsletter, where we compare the products available.

Equine Dentals

What you can’t see……….does matter! Lift the lip on your horse and you can usually see 12-16 teeth, but did you know that in the average horse, there’s another 24 teeth hidden out of sight?

Most of the teeth in our horses are Hypsodont; that means they keep growing for most of their life (unless affected by disease or trauma). These teeth are prone to form sharp enamel points over time, digging into the cheeks (from the upper arcade) and the tongue (from the lower arcade or you might call it the jaw). These points are more prone to forming from conformation changes and modern feed types and techniques. These sharp points cause ulcers and pain, especially when asking for collection, and will alter the way the horse chews.

Compounding this problem at this time of the year is grass seeds. Ulcers from sharp points will make it harder for horses to clear grass seeds. In addition to this, no horse can floss out their own mouths to get seeds out of diastemas (the gaps between teeth) OR get their tongue across to clear out that space between cheek teeth and cheeks (like we do when we get something “stuck” in our gum, cheek or diastemas).

Smelling our horse’s breath may give us a clue there is something going on, or they might salivate (dribble) or be fidgeting, head tossing or poking their tongue out. Once some sharp points or grass seeds start causing some pain, the grass seeds or other feed often sits in that area and starts to ferment, causing some pretty funky breath due to inflammation of the tissue around the teeth: this is called gingivitis (affecting the gingiva or superficial tissue around the teeth and covering the gums) or periodontitis (when the inflammation is deeper and more painful). The latter if left too long, will progress to premature tooth loss.

Hosing out your horse’s mouth is a quick way to get some relief for minor issues, but the only way to know the extent of what’s going on and resolve it before a small problem becomes a big problem, is to have a look. This requires a gag, a light, a mirror and sedation to allow a really thorough look.

A thorough dental exam performed by a qualified Dental Vet can diagnose these problems, clean out diastemas and periodontal disease, reduce sharp enamel points and plan for management of these problems. Phone the clinic today to make an appointment with Dr Ellena, our very own Dental Vet, for your equine friend.