Beef management

Welcome to the beef management section. Here you will find information on various aspects of beef production including health and business management.

Business management

Tax tips for farmers and the need for succession planning

Paul McHenry, Senior Beef and Sheep Business Technologist, Greenmount Campus, CAFRE

Does land which has been let qualify for Agricultural Property Relief?
Over the next two to three months CAFRE, with the support of Countryside Agri-Rural Partnership (CARP) are planning to run a series of Business seminars to try and answer this question along with many more. The seminars will be looking at taxation and succession planning issues and their implications for farm businesses. The first of these is due to take place on Thursday 22 November 2012 at 8pm in the Seagoe Hotel, Portadown.

The key speakers at these seminars will be accountants and farm business mentors who have experience of working with farmers and their families.
Important issues such as taxation, which will focus on personal allowances, National insurance contributions and the tax implications for businesses if they are operating as a sole trader, partnership or a Limited Company will be covered. Other areas such as capital allowances, inheritance tax, conacre and succession planning will be covered on the night.

The accountant will cover the difficult but very important topic of succession planning. Planning the transfer of the family farm tends to be an issue that a lot of family members avoid discussing. How many cases can you think about, even within your own locality where this has not been carried out until it is too late? If the process had started early, and with careful planning some of the pitfalls could have been avoided.

On the night CARP farm business mentors will discuss the service that they offer. Through their support you could identify additional sources of income both on and off the farm, identify training and development opportunities and there is the possibility of obtaining some financial support. This is in the form of a grant of up to £250 per farm business for legal and financial advice to look at things such as succession/retirement planning.

By the end of the night those that attend should have a greater understanding of the basics of tax. This should leave you in a better position to get greater value from your next visit to your accountant. You will also have a better understanding of how you can avail of the grant aid that is available to all farm businesses.

For further information or to find out when there is a seminar happening in your area please contact: Technology administration at Greenmount Campus, CAFRE on 028 9442 6770.

Health management

Marketing clean cattle

Cattle with dirty hides will not be slaughtered. Only attempt to clip them if you have facilities which meet the required safety standards. If not, pay the levy at the meat plant. Cattle due to be finished in April will be easier to clip if left until then.

Dirt on hides can be reduced by:

  • avoiding feeding low dry matter feeds such as wet silage, potatoes or fodder beet
  • ensuring that the total protein content of the diet is not excessive
  • feeding hay or straw in the period immediately before slaughter
  • keeping cattle dry when moving to the lairage at the meat plant
  • provide good ventilation.

Producing clean livestock for slaughter

  • cattle and sheep with dirty hides at slaughter can harbour dangerous organisms which could potentially be a threat to the health to the consumer, you and your family
  • recent incidences in Great Britain have resulted in the 'Pennington Report' recommending cleaner livestock
  • every farmer has a responsibility to ensure that their livestock are clean at slaughter

The main areas of contamination are:

  • the rump
  • hind legs
  • the belly
  • the brisket
  • fore legs

Keeping livestock clean


Must be maintained in a clean and hygienic condition. It must provide stock with adequate ventilation and a well drained lying area.


Spaced sheeting boards and roof cladding should have a 12-25 mm gap between them.

  • adequate outlets should be created; ideally a 300-450 mm protected open ridge
  • eaves should be a minimum of 2.5m from floor level


Most cattle are wintered on concrete slats in Northern Ireland. Over or understocking results in dirtier cattle.

Where cattle are bedded; adequate straw should be used - approximately two small bales per 450 kg store per week. Barley straw is better than wheat straw as it has a higher absorptive ability.

Cattle/sheep slatted m2/head 20' x 15' pen Bedded m2/head 20' x 15' pen
200 1.2 23 3 9
300 1.5 18 3.4 8
400 1.8 15 3.8 7
500 2.1 13 4.2 6
20-40kg lambs 0.7 39 0.9 3.0

Clean livestock through good husbandry


Both cattle and sheep may be clipped prior to housing and sale. Clipping cattle is dangerous without proper handling facilities.

Cattle and sheep should be treated for worms and parasites at the recommended dosage rate. Feeding - Diet greatly influences the cleanliness of stock.


  • the addition of straw / hay (high dry matter forage) to a diet based on feeds such as potatoes / fodder beet / molasses or wet silage which has undergone a poor fermentation (low dry matter)
  • ensuring that the total protein content of the diet is not excessive
  • the change from one diet to another ie grass to silage, is gradual to avoid digestive 

Pre slaughter management

To improve the cleanliness of stock:

  • move the cattle to an adequately sized bedded pen approximately three weeks prior to slaughter
  • wash cattle only in extreme circumstances. Do not wash within 24 hours of sale as this may increase bacterial contamination at slaughter
  • offer stock a high dry matter concentrate based ration
  • restrict intakes of low dry matter feeds (for example silage) overnight prior to slaughter
  • stock shoud only be transported by competent persons, using well maintained and clean vehicles. Do not mix cattle from different batches during transport

Worms in cattle

As the winter approaches and cattle are being housed and dosed, it is important to use the correct product to prevent Type II Ostertagiasis.
Any worm larvae eaten after September do not go through normal development. These larvae enter the glands in the stomach, where they remain dormant over the winter. These are known as inhibited larvae. In incorrectly dosed animals, thousands of these inhibited larvae simultaneously develop to adults and emerge from these glands in early spring. As a result there is severe damage to the gut, which often results in death. This disease is called Type II Ostertagiasis, compared with Type I disease which occurs in calves and young stock at grass during the summer and autumn.

Signs of Type II disease include: Profuse, watery diarrhoea, rapid weight loss and death. This is usually seen in February / March.


In order to prevent this type of the disease, it is essential to drench the animals at housing with an anthelminthic which must be effective against these inhibited larvae. Avermectins are very effective, some Benzimidazoles may be effective, but not Levamisole which is ineffective and should not be used.


Anthelmintics can be divided into three separate groups. It is important to know which of these groups the drug belongs to since the dosing interval, and the type of worms that this product may be effective against will differ between different types. Benzimidazoles are more commonly know as the white drenches, Imidazothiazoles or Levamisole based products are the clear drenches and Avermectins are the new generation products such as Ivomec, Cydectin and Dectomax.


This group of drenches has been on the market for a long time. There are many different types. Some will kill adults and larvae but others will not kill inhibited larvae. In general they are very safe products but some can not be used in pregnant animals. Some may also kill fluke and tapeworms at a higher dose rate.

The chemical is slowly eliminated from the body, which gives it a long withholding time.


This drug acts by paralysing the worms. Correct dosing technique is required to prevent accidental overdosing which can cause nervous signs. These products are only effective against 70-80 percentage of worms and it has no effect on inhibited larvae. They can not be used for animals at housing. It is quickly eliminated from the body so it has a short withdrawal period.


This group of chemicals is highly effective against all types of worms. They will also kill mange mites and most type of lice. A flukicide may be included but this only is effective against adult fluke. These drugs persist in the body for weeks after treatment, thus reducing the dosing frequency.

Resistance to Anthelmintics is an increasing problem in sheep. If resistance occurs against a wormer, it occurs against all the wormers in that category. Worms that become resistant pass this resistance on to its offspring. Several factors may predispose to resistance. These include under dosing, too frequent dosing and purchasing sheep with a resistant worm burden. There have been some cases of worms being resistant to Ivermectin in England and New Zealand

Fluke disease in cattle

In cattle, mature fluke living in the bile ducts of the liver are the main cause of disease. This prevents the liver from functioning properly. These mature fluke are present in the bile ducts from December onwards.

The signs of fluke disease are due to liver damage: Cattle are thin, not thriving, with a poor coat, and ‘bottle-jaw’. This is a swelling under the jaw of the affected animal. Fluke eggs may be present in the dung of animals that are chronically infected.

Fluke control - housed cattle anthelminthics

There are a variety of different anthelmintics on the market for control of fluke in both cattle and sheep. Knowledge of these products and their range of action are essential for effective disease prevention.

  • Triclabendazole (Fasinex) - this is effective against all ages of fluke, killing both adult and developing fluke. As a result of its wide range of action, treating the animals will result in a near total fluke kill. Animals should be dosed shortly after housing
  • Nitroxynil (Trodax) - this is an injection, which may cause lumps at injection site. It has activity against adult and some activity against young fluke to two weeks of age. For best results, it is best to wait until all possible infective stages of the fluke are older than two weeks before treatment. Therefore, inject animals two weeks after housing or if used in dairy cows, at drying off
  • Closantel (Flukiver)- this product kills immature fluke from five weeks. Therefore dose animals five weeks after housing to achieve a complete fluke "kill"
  • other drugs may only kill adult fluke from 12 weeks. They are of no use in the prevention of acute disease outbreak, which is generally caused by young fluke. These products are best used where the risk of disease and fluke infection is low. Dose animals in January (12 weeks after housing) after all stages of fluke have reached adulthood to achieve a complete fluke "kill". There is a degree of risk with the strategy. An alternative would be to dose once to kill all adults, and then to wait for a while until the remaining fluke have reached adulthood and dose again

Fluke control in out wintered cattle

Dose in January (remember these cattle will have been taking in fluke all winter, so all stages of fluke will be present in their liver in January). If drug only kills adults then repeat in March and April.

On land where fluke infestations are likely to be high, another dose of Triclabendazole in September/October will be of benefit.

If there is a warm and wet June / July, the Fluke Forecast can be used to predict the level of disease.

Combined Fluke and Worm Products

There are a wide variety of combined fluke and worm products on the market. Great care must be taken when using these products since they may not be the best product to use at certain times of the year. Some things to look our for are:

  • when dosing at housing with a combined product, make sure that the worm portion kills inhibited larvae. It should say this on the pack. Levamasole and some Benzimidazole products are of no use at this time of year
  • check what stage of fluke the flukicide portion kills. If it only kills adult fluke, you may have to wait until December to have a complete fluke kill, or have to treat at housing and repeat later in the winter
  • treating young stock at grass with some combined fluke and worm products has a limited value when treating for fluke since there are no adult fluke present in these animals at this time of year
  • always check the dose rate for combined products. They may kill worms but only adult fluke, and at three times the recommended dose rate for worms. They may not be economical


Infections and problems affecting the respiratory tract of cattle are common. Pneumonia accounts for over 30 percent of death in calves and is the most important cause of deaths in one - five month old calves. Not only do calves die but many do not fully recover from the infection resulting in poor growth performance and increased susceptibility to other diseases. The cost of this disease to the farmer includes treatments costs, mortality costs and extra labour costs.

Post Weaning Pneumonia

Infection by respiratory viruses and bacteria in weaned suckled calves is a common occurrence on many farms in Northern Ireland in the autumn. While many of the calves recover from the infection either naturally or with veterinary treatment a significant number of calves get pneumonia.
This disease is caused by the interaction of different factors:

  • ability of the calf to resist infection
  • the environment of the weaned calf
  • the types of viruses or bacteria which are on the farm
  • the ability of the stockman to manage weaning

The weaning and marketing practices in Northern Ireland often increase the likelihood of respiratory infections in autumn housed suckled calves.
The stress of weaning on its own is sufficient to reduce the ability of calves to resist the challenge of infection. The transport of calves to marts in addition to standing for long periods in marts further reduces the immunity of the calves. Finally the housing of these stressed calves in unsuitable buildings at high stocking density and often mixed with older immune cattle is a recipe for respiratory infection which often leads to pneumonia.

Reducing the Pneumonia Challenge

Reduce Stress - Minimise the stresses associated with weaning. Introduce creep feeding at least one month before weaning. Avoid the stress of sudden ration changes. Try to avoid housing and weaning at the same time. Keep handling and transport of calves to a minimum. Dehorn and castrate calves at least one month before weaning.

Good Housing – Good housing can dramatically reduce the incidence of respiratory problems. Good ventilation is vital to remove stale, exhaled air and replenish it with clean fresh air to prevent the build up of disease organisms. Ensure there is good ventilation without being draughty. Avoid overcrowding to reduce the spread of viruses and bacteria. Allowing calves to run outside is often a simple and effective way to reduce the risk of infection.

Vaccination - Due to the complex nature of respiratory disease in calves, complete protection against pneumonia is rarely obtainable. There are vaccines available for Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR), Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), Parainfluenza virus (PI3) and Pasteurella. Remember that all these vaccines take time to boost the immunity of the calves. You should consult with your veterinary surgeon on the correct vaccine(s) for your farm.

Stockmanship / Management -Your ability to manage the weaning and housing of suckled calves in the late autumn is critical to the health and wellbeing of your calves. Consult your veterinary surgeon to discuss ways of treating and preferably preventing respiratory and other problems in the weaned calf.

Always seek veterinary advice about the best way to treat and control specific problems on your farm.

Scours in the suckled calf

Scouring is the most common disease of young calves. Up to half of the deaths in calves up to one month of age is due to scour. Failure to thrive, the cost of treatment and labour costs contribute significantly to the overall financial losses caused by scours.

Causes of scour

Scour is the result of an upset in the normal flow of fluid in the intestine. This can be caused by an oversupply of milk which results in a mild nutritional scour or by germs which can cause a more severe scour with the calf becoming dehydrated and sick. There are numerous germs which can attack the normal working of the intestine and interfere with the absorption of water and the digestion of food.

The principle infectious causes are:

  • Rotavirus
  • Coronavirus
  • Cryptosporidium
  • Salmonella
  • E Coli K99

The factors which influence whether the calf gets scour depends on the balance between:

  • the protection that it receives from the cow in the colostrum and
  • the amount and type of germs that the calf picks up. Hygiene on the farm is critical for the new-born calf.

Therefore, the management at calving time and in the first weeks after calving is as important as the type of germ which causes scour

Ensure all new-born calves get enough colostrum

Colostrum is a rich source of antibodies for new-born calves. It is vital that the calf gets at least six pints of beastings in the first six hours of life. These antibodies protect the calf for up to three months from diseases such as pneumonia and scour. Colostrum also puts a protective coating on the lining of the gut and prevents germs from attacking it.

Good Hygiene

Good hygiene on the farm is vital in the case of the new-born calf. The new-born calf has no immunity to the germs that cause scour. The germs are present in normal cow faeces. These germs are easily picked up from dirty calving pens, dirty udders or any dirty objects. If buildings, udders and equipment are kept clean there will be a slower build up of infection and the calves will be able to cope with these low levels of infection.

Treatment and Isolation of Sick Calves

Scouring calves become weak and dehydrated very quickly. They should be taken away from the cow and treated with electrolyte mixtures and other medicines as directed by your veterinary surgeon. Scours caused by E Coli, Rotavirus and other germs are very contagious. The scouring calf should be isolated as soon as possible because it is a serious health hazard to its companions.


There are vaccines available to boost the immunity of the young calf to infection by the E Coli, Salmonella and Rotavirus germs. These vaccines are given to the cows at least three weeks before calving. Remember that all the protection is in the colostrum. You should consult with your veterinary surgeon on the correct vaccine(s) for your farm.

Always seek veterinary advice about the best way to treat and control specific problems on your farm.

Grass Tetany

Ensure adequate supplies of magnesium are available from turnout until well into June.

  • 60g (two ounces) calmag/cow/day incorporated into a concentrate is an effective method
  • another cost-effective approach is to use a 50:50 by weight mixture of calcium magnesite and molasses provided in tubs

Dusting the pastures, providing free access high magnesium mineral licks, adding magnesium to the water and the use of magnesium bullets are additional ways of supplying magnesium.

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