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Increasing numbers of milk producers are turning to colostrum replacements

The growing threat of Johne’s Disease in Northern Ireland is encouraging significant numbers of dairy farmers to offer bespoke colostrum replacements to newborn calves.

A case in point is Katesbridge milk producer John McGaffin, who farms with his father Hubert.

The pair milk 125, mainly autumn calving cows, a mix of Holstein and Ayrshires. The herd is currently averaging 8,800L per lactation, based on a three-times-per-day milking regime.

“The milking cows are currently receiving 2.8t of concentrates per lactation,” John confirmed.

“We aim to produce and rear all our own replacement heifers.”

The McGaffins are totally committed to giving all their calves the best possible start. But up until a few months ago, they were having a significant problem with ill thrift and premature deaths in the calf house.

John takes up the story:

“No matter what we tried, a significant number of the calves failed to meet the growth targets that we had set for them.

“Johne’s is a growing problem on dairy farms across Northern Ireland. But that issue aside, I was always concerned that the colostrum produced by our cows wasn’t up to spec on all occasions.”

He continued:

“Some months ago, the decision was taken to feed a bespoke colostrum concentrate to each newborn calf.

“On the back of the research carried out we opted to go with Provita’s Colostrum Concentrate.

“And we haven’t looked back since.

“Each calf born on the farm is now stomach tubed with the product immediately after birth. Making it up couldn’t be easier: it’s a case of mixing the powder with warm water, according to the straightforward instructions on the sachet.

“The calf then receives mother’s colostrum for the following couple of days, as would be the normal procedure with a freshly calved cows and her calf.”

According to John, the vitality of the calves receiving the Provita product has increased manifold since the new colostrum feeding regime was introduced.

He explained:

“The difference truly is day and night. Problems related to scours and pneumonias have fallen away to almost nothing.

“Opting to use the Provita Colostrum Concentrate was one of the best decisions that we have taken on the farm over recent years.”

Provita Colostrum Concentrate provides a high level of natural EU sourced colostrum, with added egg powder and vitamins carried in a nutritional energy source. It is formulated to supplement colostrum from the dam or where access to natural colostrum has not been possible.

The product is high in fat soluble vitamins A, D and E to compensate for the inefficient placental transfer of these vitamins. Its nutritional base provides instant and slow release energy allowing the calf to suckle quicker. Its easy-mix formula makes it fast and practical to use.

Provita technical advisor George Shaw was a recent visitor to the McGaffin farm.

He said:

 “The colostrum concentrate works at two levels. First off, it is a high quality product that has consistently proven itself on farms over many years. It provides newborn calves with the full levels of immunity that they need, in order to maximise health and performance levels in the weeks directly after birth.

“Significantly, the product also acts to break the Johne’s cycle within a herd. Newborn calves are exposed to infection from the get-go, courtesy of their mother’s colostrum, assuming the dam is a Johne’s carrier.”

George concluded:

“Provita Colostrum Concentrate is guaranteed Johne’s-free. Its use allows milk producers to provide newborn calves with an exceptional level of immunity without a reliance on mothers’ colostrum.

“Putting these animals on a subsequent milk replacer feeding programme should then act to completely break the Johne’s cycle within a herd.”

For further information, contact Provita on (028) 8225 2352 or visit: 

Production Manager

Role Production Manager  
Responsible To Managing Director  
Based At Omagh & Donaghcloney Sites  
Salary Competitive – based on experience  


Provita Eurotech Ltd is a privately owned company engaged in the development, manufacturing and marketing of natural animal health products.  We operate out of two sites from purpose-built GMP licensed facilities for the manufacture of animal health products.


  • Responsible for the development and implementation of activities in production area(s) to meet production goals, quality, and cost objectives. 
  • Prioritizes production schedules based on product introduction, equipment efficiency, and materials supply. 
  • Plans and administers procedures and budgets. 
  • Makes budgetary recommendations on capital expenditures and direct/indirect labour. 
  • Prepare and review department budgets and lead cost and efficiency improvement efforts with production as well as across the site as appropriate.
  • Maintain a high-level accountability to self and department to achieve on time, on budget, and high-quality work.
  • Selects and develops personnel to ensure the efficient operation of the production function. 
  • Build and maintain an environment of continuous improvement, by engaging all team members.
  • Partners with Operational Excellence team to lead the Lean Transformation journey.
  • Assist in the maintenance of a safe company culture by working within the company’s environmental, health and safety guidelines at all times and reporting any equipment or process problems in line with plant escalation procedures. 
  • Keep abreast of industry best practices and market changes.
  • Lead specific projects for the site in line with strategic focuses.
  • Partner with functional and plant leaders and collaborate to define and implement best practice initiatives.


  • 3rd level Qualification in Business, Engineering or a related field with emphasis in management. 
  • Six Sigma/Lean tools certified
  • Excel, Word, PowerPoint, PeopleSoft, BPCS an advantage
  • 10+ years of experience in Manufacturing or related field; preferably in a GMP medical manufacturing environment
  • Management experience (either Production, Engineering, Quality, etc.)
  • As a leader and manager you will be expected to be a role model in exhibiting plant key behaviours and fostering the development of Integrity, Excellence, Teamwork, and Accountability.


Submit CV to

Graphic Design & Digital Marketing Executive

Role Graphic Design & Digital Marketing Executive  
Responsible To Head of Marketing  
Based At Donaghcloney Site  
Salary Competitive – based on experience  


Provita Eurotech Ltd is a privately owned company engaged in the development, manufacturing and marketing of natural animal health products.  We operate out of two sites from purpose-built GMP licensed facilities for the manufacture of animal health products.


We are currently recruiting for a creative and dynamic Graphic Designer & Digital Marketing Executive .  The successful applicant will be responsible for all aspects of marketing graphic design and digital developments within the business.  From the creation of new marketing materials such as literature, advertising, social media, videos and website to creating and updating product packaging and label artwork.

  • Develop high quality, creative multi-channel marketing solutions in print and digital formats.
  • Work with a wide range of media, including photography, illustration, animation and video footage to deliver creative that is fresh, innovative and on-brand.
  • Aid in the development of the company’s social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin.
  • Assist in developing and managing the Provita website, updating and creating new content regularly and analysing SEO performance.
  • Produce creative that simplifies technical complexity and enhances key messages.
  • Work with the Quality and Marketing teams to create and update product packaging artworks to meet market and regulatory requirements.
  • Play a lead role as a brand champion for design across the company, contributing to the ongoing development of the company visual identity.
  • Build, maintain and promote positive, collaborative and close working relationships with internal and external stakeholders.
  • Liaise with agency partners, printers and suppliers were required to produce and print materials


  • 2+ years in a graphic design role.
  • Highly competent with the Adobe Creative Suite, particularly Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign.
  • Experience in website CRM systems, Google Analytics and Social Media.
  • Experience in developing, deploying and evaluating digital marketing and promotional campaigns.
  • Forward- thinking, ‘can-do’, positive attitude.
  • Enjoy working in a fast-paced environment, running multiple projects concurrently and often operating to tight deadlines.
  • Be a natural problem solver and clear visual communicator, with the ability to take complex information and present it in appealing and understandable ways in a variety of formats to technical and non-technical audiences.
  • Strong organisational and communication skills.
  • Excellent attention to detail.
  • Effective project management and time management skills in order to meet deadlines.


Submit CV to

Antibiotics: Replace, Rethink & Reduce, says the EU -Probiotics Can Be a Real Replacement Here

The Costs of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)

Antibiotic resistant pathogenic bacteria (Superbugs), currently responsible for 700,000 deaths a year, could kill more people than cancer by 2050 at a cost of £63 trillion to the global economy according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – the ability of micro-organisms to resist antimicrobial treatments, especially antibiotics – has a direct impact on human and animal health and carries a heavy economic burden due to higher costs of treatments and reduced productivity caused by sickness. AMR is responsible for an estimated 33,000 deaths per year in the EU. It is also estimated that AMR costs the EU €1.5 billion per year in healthcare costs and productivity losses.

According to WHO projections, the number of cases of resistance is expected to double in more than ten years. By 2050, the number of cases will be four times more than today. The ‘post-antibiotic’ era is near, according to reports released by the WHO. The decreasing effectiveness of antibiotics and other antimicrobial agents is a global problem if bacteria become fully resistant to antibiotics.

The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) expects a 45% rise in the demand for animal proteins by 2050 and the world must face the double challenge of meeting demands for animal proteins while reducing the risks of AMR.

“Replace, Reduce and Rethink” has become the mantra of all international Health Authorities as regards curbing antibiotic usage, and all European countries now focus on the “One Health” initiative which underlines the mutual interdependence of animal and human health in this regard.

Tackling AMR in Calves

The Role of Probiotics in Promoting Animal Health and in Reducing the Need for Antibiotics

Prevention is better than cure, and a healthy gut microbiome and a healthy immune system will reduce the risk of infectious disease and therefore curb the reliance on antibiotics. Antibiotics can be regarded as having a subtractive gut effect, insofar as they strip not only pathogens but also useful immuno-stimulant commensals from the gut. AMR is also a huge risk with oral antibiotic usage.

Much American research on rearing pre-weaning calves has shown that early antibiotic usage actually lowers the animal’s immunity, and that calves treated with antibiotics pre-weaning have lowered milk production and reduced productivity as adults. Probiotics on the other hand, have an additive effect on the gut, by seeding beneficial organisms which competitively exclude pathogens from establishment, and also by stimulating the body’s immune system.  Thus probiotics (proven and approved by Regulatory Agencies), can be a very viable replacement for antibiotics in calves, when given from birth onwards on a prophylactic basis.

Role of Protect in Replacing Antibiotics

Improved liveweight gains at weaning, and a spectacular reduction in the incidence of calf scour has been repeatedly reported for Protect. These effects were originally demonstrated in the early clinical field trials with the product on E.coli farms when the Protect dossier for marketing authorisation was being prepared. Provita Protect is the only authorised and proven probiotic for calves on the UK and European market. It has been authorised for use in E coli calf scour by the VMD and HPRA as a result of its evidence-based field trials and its proven efficacy against E coli scour in calves. In this regard, it is a one-off probiotic. One of the important protective effects of the probiotics in the intestinal mucosa is to strengthen the epithelial tight junctions and to improve the mucosal barrier function of the gut. Probiotics not only enhance barrier function by inducing synthesis and assembly of tight junction proteins, but also prevent disruption of tight junctions by external injurious factors, bacteria, and pathogens. Thus, entry of pathogenic micro-organisms is inhibited, infection is lessened and therefore the use of antibiotics is more infrequent.

Field Trial Results with Provita Protect

Better gut health, better respiratory health, better immunity, and heavier weights at weaning are direct benefits of Provita Protect usage. In addition, the probiotic reduces the need for prophylactic antibiotics and by reducing subsequent gut and respiratory disease outbreaks, it lessens the need for therapeutic antibiotic intervention.

Provita Protect has been shown to be just as effective as antibiotics in promoting animal health in calves. In addition, Provita Protect provides for a microbiologically healthier gut which will protect against pathogen invasion while at the same time enhancing nutrient absorption and metabolism. This translates into better weight gains, and this has been a constant feature of Provita Protect use in calves, where the treated calved consistently showed higher weight gains (>10% over controls) at weaning. By virtue of its enhancement of gut-based immunity and the general immune-stimulation arising there from, Protect also reduces the incidence of pneumonia in calves. In field trials, calves treated with Protect showed not only a 78% reduction in scour incidence but also a 70% reduction in pneumonia incidence (Ref 1). Body weights at weaning, in Protect treated calves were significantly improved by up to 10% over the untreated controls.

Thus, Provita Protect, when administered on a prophylactic basis, will not only reduce antibiotic usage (and hence reduce the spread of AMR), but additionally it will contribute to significant financial benefits and productivity returns to the end user.

Provita Promist – Clear the air and reduce antibiotic usage

During autumn calving, a major health problem which can affect new-born calves is pneumonia. Provita Promist is a proprietary blend of natural organic acids, essential oils and wetting agents which together improve conditions of housed stock.  Natural organic acids in Promist lower the pH in the air creating an environment inhibitory to harmful bacteria and viruses.  It should be used at housing or when new stock has been introduced onto the farm, as pathogens can spread when animals from different sources are mixed. Thereafter use as often as required, e.g. when more stock is added to cattle houses or during still weather conditions until air flow improves. It can also be used daily in houses that have permanently poor air flow. Promist will also reduce ammonia and dust levels.  It should be used above and around the cattle to purify the air, the surfaces and the animals. The essential oils provide an expectorant effect.

The use of Provita Promist to improve air quality and maintain good animal health is rapidly growing across the UK and Ireland.  Barry Logan of Logan Calf Farms rears around 2000 calves per year in County Antrim.  They arrive from various farms and marts at 1 month old and are sold on at around 3 months old.  The calves come from many different sources so are exposed to a mixture of various airborne pathogens.  At the end of 2016, there was a particularly calm spell of weather which led to poor airflow in sheds regardless of how well designed or open the houses were.  At this time, approximately 50% of the calves needed to be given an antibiotic. However, since Barry started using Provita Promist regularly he sees an immediate and significant improvement in the air quality, resulting in only 5% of calves needing an antibiotic; a 90% reduction!  He now uses Provita Promist regularly to maintain good airflow and quality to help keep his calves healthy and thriving. With Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) becoming a major threat for animal and human health the use of alternative products such as Provita Promist will have a much greater role to play in keeping livestock healthier in the future.

James and Francis Kyle who run 200 milking cows near Ballymoney have seen a big difference in their calf health and vitality since they started using Provita Promist. They were using a fan and tunnel but were still having problems. Since using Provita Promist they have reduced their usage of antibiotics.  They have also experienced a vast reduction in digital dermatitis related lameness by signing up to Provita Hoofsure HELP service and using Hoofsure Endurance footbath solution.

The Shaw family farm in Castlewellan is home to a small herd of spring calving suckler cows plus a number of bought-in cattle.  After reviewing their rearing process in relation to pneumonia prevention they pinpointed environmental factors as a potential issue.  They started using Provita Promistto fog sheds when weanlings, young stores, finishers and suckler cow groups were housed from late September to early November.  The results were very noticeable when mixing various batches of cattle in the same air space as no groups developed acute coughs upon housing.  The respiratory health in bought-in calves has been greatly improved with use of Provita Promist. Another observation since using Provita Promist is the absence of ringworm infection on calves in houses that have traditionally manifested it. While it is typically innocuous in cattle, it is unsightly and something they are pleasantly surprised not to see this year.

Vitamin, Mineral & Trace Elements: Pre-Tupping for a Larger and Healthier Lamb Crop

Written by Dr T.B. Barragry PhD MSc, MVB, MRCVS, Vet Pharmacologist

Maintenance of a stable trace element status can be a challenge in many sheep flocks.  Late in the season, many sheep are exposed to poor quality grazing and forage which has quite low trace element and nutritional values. Sheep are also subjected to the stresses of harsh outdoor conditions and exposed on hillsides to extreme weather variations. Foot problems are also very common occurrences in flocks and this painful lameness can significantly impede mobility and grazing and lead to inadequate nutritional intake. Soil and herbage composition can vary in different geographical areas and can determine the various specific trace element deficiencies that are found in local regions.

All these factors acting together can contribute to deficiencies of selenium, vitamin E, vitamin B12, copper, cobalt, selenium, zinc, and iodine in sheep. This deficiency is made worse during pregnancy when higher than normal nutritional and metabolic drains are being made on the ewe, because of the extra demands from the developing foetus.

The tupping season brings many extra demands on the requirements for adequate trace elements and vitamin intake for the ewe. Ovulation and multiple ovulations in the ewe are dependent on high-quality nutrition and supply of key trace elements and certain vitamins such as, folic acid and beta carotene. Vitamin B12, selenium and vitamin E are required for ovulation and good fertility status. To facilitate the possibility of multiple ovulations of healthy ova in the cycling ewe, these trace elements must be supplied pre-tupping in quantities to compensate for their likely shortfall on herbage in late summer/autumn. Selenium governs foetal growth and immunity, but in deficiency states it may give rise to muscle stiffness and white muscle disease in young lambs.  Selenium and vitamin E serve as potent antioxidants, lowered incidences of retained placentas, mastitis, metritis, and cystic ovarian disease and improve immunity, conception rate, fertility, and production.

A deficiency of zinc compromises sperm production and quality; and is also necessary for antibody production.  Cobalt promotes foetal production and lamb vigour after birth. Manganese and zinc are involved in the synthesis of bone, teeth, and hormones.  Even if the animal is only deficient in one of these minerals, the overall production and reproduction can be negatively affected. Supplementation given before lambing season will have a definite positive impact on the number of lambs born, number of weaned lambs (survival) and their weaning weight. Copper plays a key role in development of the foetal lamb and copper deficiency in pregnancy can result in swayback in the newborn lamb. Like cobalt, iodine is a trace element that ruminants have no capacity to store, and a continuous supply must therefore be available.  Iodine is essential for normal foetal growth and development.  Abortions in sheep are often associated with iodine deficiency.

Colostrum: Trace minerals are transferred from the ewe to the foetus and ensure that lambs are born with optimal levels of trace minerals. Milk does not contain significant quantities of trace minerals; therefore, it is important that lambs are born with an optimal level. The quality of the colostrum is also affected by the ewe’s trace mineral status during late pregnancy through the effect it has on the number of antibodies in the colostrum. Adequate trace element nutrition also ensures good quality colostrum, rich in gamma globulin antibodies for the immunodeficient newborn lamb. This is important since it kick starts the lamb’s immune system and optimises the early (maternal) immunity of the lambs.

Vitamins: B vitamins are important for making sure that all the body’s cells are functioning properly, and they also act as co-factors for trace element enzymes.  Many of these B vitamins act as triggers to ensure optimum fat, carbohydrate, and protein metabolism, thereby indirectly and positively affecting ovulation, foetal development, foetal size, and ewe health.

Vitamin A (and beta carotene) are required by sheep for a variety of functions throughout multiple body systems. Plants produce carotene, which the ruminant then converts in the intestine into vitamin A. The greenness of the plant is a relatively good indicator of the carotene content. Fresh forages and early cut, leafy, green hays have high carotene content. Vitamin A together with zinc directly affects immunity through both production of antibodies and through maintaining an adequate barrier to infection with healthy skin cells.

In summary, the essential trace elements for supplementation before tupping include cobalt, (Co), manganese (Mn), zinc (Zn), copper (Cu), iodine and selenium (Se). These six trace minerals play an important role in the ewe’s fertility status at tupping and later during pregnancy.  A deficiency in any of these during late pregnancy can have a negative effect on the development and survival of the lamb(s).

Lamb growth, survival, viability and especially immunity will be optimised by vitamin E, selenium, vitamin A and zinc.  Pre-tupping dosing is thus a sound financial investment. The pregnant ewe may also need trace element supplementation during pregnancy, as the foetal lambs increase in size in the uterus, thus making greater nutritional demands upon the dam.  Hoofcare must not be overlooked in all this reproductive sector, as it is a major determinant of sheep mobility, grazing ability, and ultimately, it’s nutritional intake.

Dr Barragry acts as Veterinary Advisor to Provita Eurotech Ltd.

Plan to Advance+ your forage this season and make it pay come feed out time

Farmgate prices have been buoyantly good for all livestock sectors recently and all will be wishing for it to continue for the foreseeable.  Despite these welcomed upward trends seen for milk, beef and lamb prices, major input costs like fertiliser and concentrates have also risen significantly too. Therefore the same, if not more, attention will be cast on production costs to maximise margins when both output and input prices are higher.

We have came through a relatively wet Winter and Spring has been dry but unseasonably cold with frequent overnight frosts checking grass growth considerably.  Some parts of the country even got a nice layering of snow around Easter!  It could be the case that some farms have included some silage fields into the grazing rotation or delayed closing silage fields off to livestock.  Yet silage ground in the country that has been closed off for a number of weeks is not showing the desired sward bulk we want to see at this time of year.  We are all too familiar with the fact that no two growing seasons are the same but a constant is the amount of forage that can be grown each year; it really just depends when that growth and tonnage comes in through the season.

Farms should then be looking to capitalise on every cut of grass to produce the best quality and value forage for their farm.  With every tonne of silage important, farms should be looking to minimise dry matter (DM) losses from forage at ensiling.  Research has shown that dry matter losses are costing UK farmers on average £25 per tonne of DM.  Simple changes in silage making practices like ensuring a rapid wilt to a target of 30% DM as quickly as possible to make sure grass is dry enough for the clamp or bale while avoiding losses of essential nutrients.  Also using a silage additive like Advance+ will drive a faster fermentation once ensiled thus reducing DM losses during this process to improve protein and sugar levels and intake potential.

Advance+ consistently improves silage quality when forage analyses are taken.  Based on data from a bank of 200+ samples from 2018, Advance+ had the following benefits:

  1. Reduction of 3.5% DM losses i.e. extra 35 tonne DM in 1000 tonne clamp
  2. Extra 0.52 MJ/kg of Metabolisable Energy (ME) which can provide extra 1.5 L of milk from forage
  3. Extra 46% sugar content as Advance+ bugs are more efficient during fermentation

If you are thinking to yourself now that  you want to reduce DM losses during ensilage? And you want more nutrients in your silage? Then you need to be using a silage additive like Advance+ on every cut and forage type.

Provita Advance+ provides such dependable results because of the unique EU-approved triple strain combination.  All strains of bacteria in Advance+ are registered with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) which requires extensive dossiers covering quality, safety and efficacy.  Being a multi strain product increases the reliability over a wider range of conditions also which is very useful for the unpredictable UK conditions can through up.  Applied at the recommended rate, Advance+ is guaranteed to supply 1.2 million bacteria per gram of forage.  This high level of inoculant means sufficient numbers of bacteria are present to kick start and accelerate the fermentation process to lock in that goodness in the silage as demonstrated above.  There is lot of research to show that for green crops in the UK, a minimum of 1 million bacteria per gram of forage needs to be applied, as additives containing less will not be cost effective and will not control the preservation you require.

Using Advance+ will improve face stability and prevent heating because of the inclusion of acetic acid forming bacteria in the mixture.  Although it is more of an insurance policy to help some inaccuracies in the ensiling process.  You will want to avoid over-wilting as spoilage organisms will build up on the crop the longer it is left and adequate rolling at filling time will help consolidation.  Yet Advance+ is very effective at reducing spoilage, moulding and heating issues at silage face provided normal silage management is good.

Silages treated with Advance+ consistently shows more true protein, more energy and higher digestibility resulting in improved animal performance.  So by not using a silage additive is not saving money, it is costing money because the losses are greater and animals will underperform and require more concentrates to make up the difference.  We all need to remember that the cost between making good quality and poorer quality silage is not that different with similar fertiliser, contracting and cover costs.  In actual fact, the real cost will come when it comes to feeding out that silage when lower daily liveweight gains or milk yields is achieved from forage and more concentrates need to be fed.

Typically using Advance+ will yield a return on investment of 6:1 even in good weather conditions.  Advance+ will have a cost equivalent to 4-5 pence per cow per day and calculated milk yield response can be 1.5 Litres per cow per day.  Therefore for no more than 5 pence you are likely to get back at least 30 pence on every cow, every day.  I think you can agree this is a sound investment!

Advance+ has been widely used throughout UK and Ireland, plus further afield export markets, with excellent forage results consistently seen. 

Independent Feeds, a Cheshire based company are a fantastic partner in distributing Provita Advance+ under the name Provance in Great Britain. Andrew Henderson, Chief Executive, explains why they chose Provita.  “I have sold silage inoculant for over twenty years and took the decision to move to Provita’s inoculant in 2017, as their data from mini-silo tests was very encouraging. We have performed mini-silo tests ourselves for the last two years and have therefore been able to show the benefits to farmers as they can see their own farm results. We have nearly  100% reordering from the previous year, on the back of the great success they had seen, and sales continue to grow year on year.  For 2021 season, we have tens of thousands of treated tonnes confirmed already.”

Plan now to maximise your 2021 forage quality with Provita’s Advance+.

*References available on request

Written by George Shaw, MPharm MPSNI, Technical Adviser,, 078 41 92 6219

FREEPHONE 0800 338 4982 for your local stockist and ADVANCE+ SPECIAL OFFERS

Lameness in Sheep

Given the increased focus in Ireland on lameness in sheep and the likely disappearance of Formalin in the near future producers need to start looking at other options for footbathing.  Lameness can cost €1000 per 100 ewe flock with lameness levels rising during the summer months due to the higher stocking rate, longer grass and damp conditions. On local sheep farms the main two causal agents of lameness are footrot and scald. These represent approximately 90% of all cases. The remaining 10% arise from various different infections and other causes such as injuries.  Farmers who change their management to include footbathing as part of a sheep lameness control plan will benefit from a reduction in lame sheep and a subsequent increase in profits.

It is possible to successfully control footrot in your sheep. This is because the bacteria that cause footrot cannot live in the absence of the sheep for more than two weeks. Therefore, by eliminating footrot from the sheep and moving them to ‘clean’ ground (where there have been no sheep for the previous two weeks), it should be possible to eliminate the footrot bacteria from the holding. That’s the theory – in practice there are usually a few chronically infected sheep on the farm that act as reservoirs of infection and keep the cycle going. As soon as these are identified they should be separated and treated individually.  Separate lame sheep from healthy sheep as scald and foot rot are highly infectious.

Use a combination of sprays, paring and antibiotic injections (consult your vet) to treat foot infections.  Sheep that are lame should be identified quickly, separated from the main flock and treated intensely.  Antibiotic and non antibiotic methods can be used for individual sheep, consult your vet about the most effective antibiotic spray or injection.

Routine prevention footbaths should be done on average once a month and when there is an increased risk every two weeks. Footbathing should be done once a week when sheep are housed.  An effective footbath is an essential part of any sheep handling unit. When using the footbath it is important to have the correct concentration of solution and adequate height to ensure the hoof is fully immersed. The depth of the footbath is of paramount importance. In the case of sheep, the minimum footbath depth should be 3 inches. It is advised that you fill 1.5-2 inches above the minimum fill level, so as to account for spillage as the animals walk through. Where the sheep are just being walked through the footbath (i.e. not standing in it for a period of time) the footbath should ideally be longer.  To achieve the best results, send them through the footbath every 2-6 weeks depending on risk level.  Once the sheep have been foot bathed it is a good idea to allow them to stand on a clean dry surface for as long as is practical. 

Hoofsure Endurance is a safe footbath solution containing organic acids, tea tree oil and wetting agents, and is finding favour with leading sheep producers throughout Ireland.  It is available in 5 litre, 10 litre, 20 and 205 litre drums.  It costs approximately 60 cents per sheep per year.

A recent independent study showed that 65% of sheep with feet problems showed improvement after one pass through a footbath containing Hoofsure Endurance at 2%.

When using Hoofsure Endurance a 1% dilution rate is required, so with a 100 litre bath (average size), only 1 litre is needed. As a general rule, 400 sheep passes can be achieved through a 100 litre footbath provided depth is maintained.  It costs approximately 60 cents per sheep per year.  If lameness problems persist Hoofsure Endurance can be used at 2% dilution rate.

The Hoofsure range includes two products for individual application on affected feet.  Hoofsure Combat foot spray contains tea tree oil and organic acids, and when dry forms a sanitising long-lasting film.  It costs approximately 30 cents per application. Hoofsure Konquest is a potent gel based on organic acids, tea tree oil and a penetrating agent, which is now available in convenient cost-effective 15g and 30g syringes.   It costs approximately 80 cents per application.

Managing Lameness: Key tips from veterinary lameness specialist

Lameness is one of the most common debilitating health issues for dairy cattle. According to Cattle Health and Welfare Group Report (2018) approximately 30% of dairy cattle will be affected with lameness during their lifetime. 

Several factors are associated with lameness in dairy cows including genetics, the environment and management.  Management can be particularly important with low body condition score (BCS) and previous lameness events being major risk factors.  There are four types or causes that lead to most dairy lameness issues: digital dermatitis, sole bruising, sole ulcers, and white line disease.  Digital dermatitis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria called treponemes, spiral-shaped microorganism found on most dairies around the world.  Classical signs of this painful disease include raw, red, oval shaped lesions typically found on the back of the cow’s heel but they can appear as a range of warty or scabby lesions on the skin of the foot. Often lots of interdigital growths is what is seen first. Outbreaks happen mostly when animals are in consistently  wet and dirty conditions.  Digital dermatitis has significant economic impacts on the dairy with an estimated cost per case of approx. £80 and often affecting around 40% of cows in the herd.  This does not include lifetime effects such as development of other lesions like and necrotic hoof lesions either as these are yet to be fully defined by the industry.  While there is no method of eradicating this lameness causing disease, digital dermatitis can certainly be managed if you know what to look for.


Focus on Dry Cows and Heifers

Quite often the simplest and most effective digital dermatitis control starts with heifers and dry cows.  Many farmers can control this disease very well in the milking herd, but if you have heifers and dry cows coming in with fresh active lesions, then you are continually introducing new cases into the milking herd.  Unfortunately, if an animal has digital dermatitis early in her life, it will most likely continue to affect her as she enters the milking herd.  Renowned cattle lameness researcher Dr Arturo Gomez has published research showing that if heifers have no digital dermatitis pre-calving about 80% of those stay infection-free into the next lactation.  On the other hand if animals have one case of digital dermatitis pre-calving, about 50% become repeat offenders. Gomez went on to show that if heifers have multiple cases of digital dermatitis pre-calving, then about 70% of them repeatedly get cases during the first lactation.  Additionally they will produce a lower milk yield in the first lactation and be at increased risk of early culling from the herd.

A study in the UK by Dr Laura Randall and others (2017) highlighted that animals with previous lameness issues were more likely to be affected.  They showed that approx. 80% of lameness cases could be contributable to a reoccurring issue and concluded that repeated bouts of lameness made a large contribution to the total number of lameness events in the studied herds. Randall and co-workers surmised this could be because certain cows are initially susceptible and remain susceptible due to the increased risk associated with previous lameness events or due to repeated interactions with environmental factors.

Prioritise Feet Hygiene

To prevent digital dermatitis from occurring in the first place, the focus should be on hoof hygiene.  The whole herd goal of preventing digital dermatitis is to create clean, dry feet.  This means it is important to look for manure pooling in walkways where animals are constantly standing and to use a proper footbath system.  When utilising footbaths, it is important to aim for an appropriate contact time with a well-constructed and well-positioned footbath, with a proven footbath product for the solution in it. 

Foot baths are prevention, which is better than cure

Once an animal is infected with digital dermatitis, she will carry the disease with her for the rest of her life. One way to manage this is through proper footbath use and identifying active lesions for timely treatment. The goal is not to focus solely on treatment but to prevent NEW INFECTIONS by disinfecting feet, ideally every day if not every milking. Cows with active lesions can be identified and promptly treated to reduce the pain and send the lesion in a healing state that does not infect other healthy feet.  Foot bathing also appears to help keep infected cows free from infection if done properly at the right concentration of product. 

Using the footbath will require some tinkering and adjustment at various times throughout the winter period, and indeed the whole year.  It is almost like treating the footbath like a dial, where at certain times you will need to increase or decrease the footbath solution concentration and frequency of use to match the level of digital dermatitis in the herd.  Therefore monitoring and management of digital dermatitis on a continual (weekly) basis will make it cost effective.

Footbath management

Some tips for best management practices for footbaths so it lends itself to being less of a chore and more a routine job:

  1. Use a well-designed footbath with adjacent mixing facilities.  Long enough for 2-3 feet immersions so ideally around 3 metres long and 0.6 metres wide
  2. Provide a footbath at least every other day and adjust based on outcome to achieve a minimum frequency to maintain control
  3. Use an antibacterial with evidence of efficacy against digital dermatitis and other infectious lesions
  4. Use the solution as long as it is effective e.g. 150 to 500 cow passes for a standard 250 litre bath
  5. Footbath all cow and heifer groups

Alternatives to copper and formalin

Without doubt copper and formalin are the two most traditionally used footbath agents but each have drawbacks associated with them in terms of safety and legalisation.

Formalin chemically cauterises digital dermatitis wounds to help healing but general industry opinion is that it is not beneficial for acute active stage lesions.  Importantly, it is classified as a probable (class 1b) carcinogen and should be handled in accordance with national legislation. Under UK law this means persons should be trained and wear the appropriate personal protective equipment.

Copper sulphate under EU biocide law is not permitted to be used in footbath solutions for animal use as it is an environmental hazard.  Also copper can be quickly inactivated by footbath contaminants like manure and urine, meaning it has a low cow pass capacity for 150 or less unless you use an acidifying agent.

Hoofsure Endurance range

Dr Nick Bell states that Hoofsure Endurance is “the only product I’ve ever trialled that has performed as well as formalin at prevent new lesions, and I’ve trialled a lot of products”.  Hoofsure Endurance is well placed to help dairy farms get on top of and control lameness.  It is a proprietary footbath solution with over 40 trials across 3 continents.  Notable research shows it is up to 44% more effective than formalin and copper sulfate with proven antibacterial activity*.  Also Hoofsure Endurance will allow up to 500 cow passes through a 200 Litre footbath making it a very cost-effective solution!  Hoofsure range also includes Konquest hoof gel and Combat hoof spray for individual hoof application.

Co-written by Dr Nick J. Bell MA VetMB PhD PG cert Vet. Ed. FHEA DipECAW BM(AWSEL) MRCVS and George Shaw, MPharm MPSNI.

*References available on request

Probiotics in Lambs Can Increase Immunity and Reduce Watery Mouth

Written Dr TB Barragry PhD, MSc, MVB, MRCVS, Dip ECVPT

Mortality in Young Lambs

Almost 50% of total lamb losses occur in the first 48 hours of life, with a further 11% coming to an early demise 2-14 days post-lambing.  Reports show that estimates of pre-weaning mortality range from 10-28 % and that most of the mortality is in the first 3 days of life across all breeds and production systems.  Deaths at or around birth can lead to the loss of up to 15% of lambs born in lowland flocks and up to 25% of lambs born in hill flocks.  Newborn lambs require 10% of their body weight in colostrum within the first 24 hours of life, after which the gut is no longer able to absorb the antibodies that help prevent disease.  45% of early lamb mortality is caused by E. coli scours (Diarrhoea/Watery Mouth ), 20% by starvation/hypothermia and 8% by pneumonia.  Several sources of UK lamb mortality data over the past 30 years find average mortality rates of 12-23%. There is significant variation in levels of losses between farms, for instance 15% lamb mortality has been reported in Welsh flocks and a UK wide study found a range of 4-21% in lowland flocks.

As mentioned previously, almost half of this mortality is caused by E. coli (Watery Mouth).  Hence an effective new approach to promote newborn gut health, better immunity, and prevention of E. coli infection in lambs might significantly reduce these high mortality figures.  One such scientific evidenced based approach is to use proven probiotics in newborn lambs to protect the gut against E. coli to boost immunity until weaning, and to generate better growth rates.

The Gut Microbiome of the Lamb Governs Health & Immunity

The optimised gut microbiome is now known to be the director, not only of gut health and protection against E. coli infection, but also of general immunity in the body.  Medical research shows the beneficial effects of quality probiotics on good bacteria (commensals) of the gut and an additive signalling effect from the gut commensals to the immune system via short chain fatty acids (SCFA) and other signalling molecules.  In essence there is a healthy “cross talk” existing between the gut and other parts of the body because of an optimised gut microbiome facilitating local immunity in the gut by counteracting E. coli, but also protecting the respiratory system, the brain and other body compartments.  Eubiosis in the gut (i.e. healthy gut flora) is associated with high levels of good bacteria and SCFA, whereas dysbiosis in the gut (pathogenic organisms) is associated with a decrease in SCFA.  This recent scientific evidence clearly underpins why in the Provita Protect field trials, the treated animals displayed not only a significantly lower incidence of E. coli scour but also a lower incidence of respiratory disease.

Interestingly, there are more cells in the body’s microbiome than there are animal cells in the body. Plus there is more DNA within cells of the gut microbiome directing immunity than there is in the entire animal cell count of the body.  An optimised gut microbiome in lambs will have a higher portion of commensal organisms if acted upon directly by a proven and quality probiotic.  This probiotic-enhanced gut microbiome, as discussed, is proven to boost overall health of newborns.  This new concept explains not only the healthier gut and lower incidence of scours seen with a licensed probiotic such as Provita Protect, but also explains the significantly better growth rates seen as a bonus when calves receive Provita Protect.  Similar growth rate improvements have been reported with probiotics in lambs, together with a reduction of E. coli scour and better immunity.  The gut of the foetal lamb is sterile in the womb and is only very slowly colonised after birth.  Thus, the newborn lamb has little or no gut based immunity and is highly susceptible to E. coli infection (Watery Mouth). 

A severe challenge by environmental pathogens such as E. coli can easily override this weak and minimal indigenous commensal population in the newborn lamb.  A number of Provita newborn products contain high numbers of beneficial bacteria which help to seed, augment, and consolidate this indigenous commensal population, thereby counteracting pathogenic infection, while at the same time boosting overall health.  Specifically, these beneficial bacteria added to the gut counteract and “overcrowd” unwanted bacteria, plus also enhance early gut development to boost early gains.

Why the Lamb Benefits from Lamb Response

Lambs rely on maternal colostrum for passive immune protection because they are born immunodeficient.  Furthermore, the role between commensal microorganisms and host interaction supports the hypothesis that gut commensals play a key role in immune training.  Even with support from maternal immunoglobulins, lambs still exhibit high mortality rates, and hence implementing early and effective supplementation of the gut commensal population with Lamb Response is of critical importance.  An enhanced commensal gut microbiome will boost lamb survival and reduce digestive disturbances in the gut, thereby reducing diarrhoea incidence by virtue of the anti-pathogenic, gut based action of probiotics.  See figure 1:

Provita products are designed to supply approved additives in optimum levels and in the correct ratio, to help ensure maximum productivity from livestock. 

Provita Lamb Response is a beneficial bacteria based oral supplement which acts preventatively to augment the gut commensal population of the newborn lamb with protective bacteria, thereby generating gut health, and preventing establishment of E. coli by boosting immunity.  This product also supplies protective egg proteins and B vitamins to further enhance the gut, and to stimulate metabolism and growth.  Young lambs can also be very susceptible to hypothermia, loss of energy, and deficiency of vitamin E and selenium. Supplying egg proteins, energy (glucose) and trace elements such as vitamin E & selenium immediately after birth will not only kick start the metabolism of the newborn lamb but will also aid its survivability.  For example by using a complementary product such as Provita Jump Start.  This will act in synergy with the beneficial bacteria in Lamb Response.  Provita Jump Start is high in energy, minerals, and vitamins to provide instant and slow release and to counteract common deficiencies.  Jump Start is a nutritional supplement, specifically developed to provide newborn lambs with beneficial sources of immediately available and slow release energy containing 14 different types of minerals and vitamins. 

Written Dr TB Barragry PhD, MSc, MVB, MRCVS, Dip ECVPT

(Dr T. Barragry acts as consultant to Provita Animal Health Ltd )