A Happy New Year to anyone reading this!

There will be more than the usual uncertainty for farming this year, not just the B word, but the impact of the Agriculture Bill and the change to farming subsidies.

It’s still at the report stage but will probably be law in the early summer. How it will affect farm incomes is uncertain, but with phrases such as, “Public Money for Public Goods” it’s not likely that incomes will be going up anytime soon.

Just as when subsidies changed from headage to land there was talk of improving margins, so I can see the same happening this time. But as there is talk of an actual reduction in sub, this might be more important.

At this time of year, I usually make reference to the importance of colostrum in new-born animals. For cattle the diseases of concern are scours and pneumonia whereas for sheep it is watery mouth and joint-ill.

Watery mouth in particular can be controlled by good colostrum intake, more so that utilising antibiotics at birth. There has been some discussion that the antibiotics in the pump dispensers may be withdrawn over concerns of resistance, which would create a big problem for some flocks.

A colleague in Gloucester, however, has had good success in reducing her antibiotic bill simply by watching the flock and monitoring for signs of disease.

The only antibiotics they ended up using were on orphaned lambs that has no chance to take a first suck. As the farm had previously dosed all new lambs, this was a big saving.

The farm had scanned all the ewes and had done a nutrition plan based on the forage analysis, so everything was fed correctly and had plenty of space to feed and the lie down to digest.

The scanning was the only extra cost, but this was more than paid for by reducing the amount of feed used as the single bearing ewes needed no supplement. Planning the feeding and improving pen hygiene are the two most important areas to pay attention to in improving new-born health.

Iain Richard

Veterinary Ecologist