Cheviot Futures

United in a Changing Landscape

Animal Welfare Implications of Climate Change

Cheviot Futures has been seeking advice from veterinary contacts regarding the likely effects climate change impacts may have on the management of farm animal welfare.

Jenny Hull (MRCVS) of Alnorthumbria has provided the following information linking changing weather patterns with effects on managing helath and welfare in livestock.

Changing weather patterns
I have been working at the Rothbury surgery over five years now and in that time I have been faced with many veterinary challenges that have related to changing weather patterns. We have seen the emergence of two new insect borne viruses: Bluetongue and Schmallenberg, two horrendous winters of snow which have challenged stock survival and feed costs, two consecutive wet summers consisting of grab and run harvests and an increase in the incidence of mycotoxin toxicity from mouldy feed. Also, there has been an increase in Cryptosporidum scour outbreaks (possibly water-borne spread) in both lambs and calves, never ending pneumonia outbreaks due to the changeable winter weather and an increase in worm burdens and fluke due to the wet summers.

The veterinary year follows the farming year; it moves in cycles. 2012s opening was rocked by the emergence of Schmallenberg in the south which coincided with lambing time. It was followed by an unseasonably nice March which was great for the early lambers but was followed by snow in late April which led to greater lamb losses for late lambers. From April onwards it seemed to keep raining. Scoured youngstock were a perpetual problem all summer and poor grazing quality lead to greater trace element deficiencies. Has the higher rainfall leached the elements from the ground or have the low temperatures reduced uptake by the grass? The autumn and year end was dominated by liver fluke with huge numbers of sudden deaths in ewes on some farms. Also, most worrying is the development of Triclabendazole resistant fluke. Triclabendazole drench is the most effective fluke drench as it the only product to kill all immature fluke down to two days old in sheep. Management of fluke will have to change in the future with less reliance on Flukicides and more land management changes including fencing off wet areas, drainage and perhaps planting willow etc. on wet ground to reduce disease pressure.

2013 will potentially see Schmallenberg problems in the north and a continuing fluke problem and an emergence of Triclabendazole resistant fluke. Despite all this and the weather and the climate always being a challenge to farming, many of our farmers have managed to increase their output over the last few years with pro-active health planning approaches and capitalising on the increased value of stock.

By Jenny Hull BVetMed MRCVS
Alnorthumbria Vet Group
Front Street
Rothbury
Northumberland
NE65 7UG
01669 620638