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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnanehttps://www.thatsfarming.com/
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Rearing calves: Drop knee test, Smoke bomb test & free TASAH parasite control vet consult

In this article, we summarise some of the key take-home animal health-related messages from a Teagasc Dairy Beef 500 open day on the farm of Jarlath and Austin Ruane, in Claremorris, Co Mayo.

The father and son duo run a dairy-bred calf-to-beef system, bringing all progeny through to slaughter as steers and a lowland flock.

Adequate ventilation is key

Ideally, you want circulation over the calf’s head and not under or around. Go down to the calf’s level to determine ventilation in your calf shed.

Also, ensuring the correct temperature is critical – minimise draughts at calf level while ensuring adequate ventilation and using straw, as outlined in this article.

Read about ventilation, airspeed, moisture level and drainage in this news article. Learn about the stack effect and smoke bomb tests.


As much as possible. Perform the simple, yet effective ‘drop knee’ test. You should be able to kneel down on the calf’s bed for 15 seconds or longer without your knees getting damp.

If you do not want to kneel on it, then why should they? Read about nesting scores (ideally 3 on straw bedding to keep calves warm and clean) in this article.


Hygiene is number one – Disinfecting your equipment, your PPE including wellington boots, between sheds, upon entering and exiting your farm, have a protocol for visitors etc.

Animal health

Prevention is better than cure. Work with your vet and construct a comprehensive and practical farm-specific herd health plan, containing actions around vaccination, parasite control, ect.

Implementation of a health plan can improve the efficiency of a farming system and can reduce GHG emissions by reducing the age of slaughter.

Parasite control

At the open day, the importance of faecal sampling, targeted treatments (alternating between drugs/products, knowing the active ingredients, and administering to the correct stock type at the correct rate and correct interval, as advised by your vet) and management factors were highlighted.

In a previous article on www.thatsfarming.com, a DAFM vet stressed how AMR is ‘the silent pandemic’ and how we must reduce this by “promoting prudent and responsible prescribing of antimicrobials”.

You can avail of a faecal testing service through most veterinary practices to determine the level of worm burden in a herd.

To avoid worm resistance building up on farms, it is advised that farmers should take dung samples to see if a worm dose is warranted or not.

TASAH Parasite Control

In this article, read about how you can avail of a free vet-led parasite consult on your farm, through Animal Health Ireland’s TASAH.

At the open day, attendees about the benefits of AHI Beef Health Check reports, which display colour-coded liver and lung scorecards and commonly accompany cattle slaughter data from beef processing plants across 17 factories nationwide.

Attendees heard that the beef health check programme on a farmer’s individual ICBF profile contains useful information regarding liver damage caused by fluke off cattle that were previously killed on the farm.

This will help to determine if liver fluke is high on your particular farm.

TVIs, as part of a veterinary inspection on the slaughter line, search for liver fluke, liver abscesses, and pneumonia, which you can read about in this article.

See more farming news on www.thatsfarming.com

Article: 6 key take-home messages from dairy calf-to-beef open day in Mayo

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