HFV News November 2022

In this issue…

  • ACORNS - a bumper crop
  • KEXXTONE - helping SOFT cows through transition
  • DISBUDDING - the stress free way
  • WORMS - is the season over yet?!

ACORNS: A bumper crop

You may have noticed a lot of acorns on the ground over the last month - it's been a bumper year for them - and has caused some acorn poisoning in grazing cattle and sheep.

Oak trees don't produce enormous numbers of acorns every year, but when they do it is called a Mast Year. This year is a particularly big Mast Year due to the summer we've just had - record high temperatures plus low rainfall has put trees under stress - this encourages trees to produce masses of seeds just in case the tree doesn't make it, and to make sure their genetics survive.

What causes acorn poisoning?

Acorns contain gallotannin which gets broken down to gallic acid and tannic acid when eaten - both strong acids which can cause ulceration in the gut and fatal kidney damage.

There will often be a range of severity of acorn poisoning in a group as some cattle and sheep get a taste for the acorns and consume them in large quantities. Unfortunately acorn poisoning can have devastating consequences if they do get a taste for them and can lead to multiple deaths

Early signs of acorn poisoning:

  • abdominal pain
  • loss of appetite
  • depressed
  • weak
  • diarrhoea or constipation
  • black tarry muck (ulceration)

Unborn calves can suffer birth defects and fast growing suckler calves can be affected due to consumption of the toxin via the milk.

Whilst some of the effects of acorns point towards a gut problem, there is more severe damage caused by acorns in the kidneys - and this is often what causes deaths.

How do we know if it is acorn poisoning?

Blood or urine may be tested to help confirm a diagnosis of acorn poisoning in a live animal. In a dead animal, acorns may be found in the rumen on post mortem examination, and kidneys will be severely affected.

Can we treat acorn poisoning?

There is no treatment or antidote to acorn poisoning. Supportive therapy (large volumes of fluids) may help, and be more effective in the early stages of the disease, however it often becomes cost prohibitive. Preventing vulnerable livestock accessing oak trees and acorns is the mainstay of prevention of acorn poisoning.

KEXXTONE - protecting the SOFT cows

Approximately 75% of all disease in dairy cows typically happens in the first month after calving, with around half of dairy cows experiencing some sort of disease during the transition period.

Improving transition management and minimising the effect of immune suppression, milk fever and negative energy balance provides a huge opportunity to improve the welfare and productivity of the herd.

As the calf gets to it's birth weight at the end of pregnancy it takes up more and more room in the abdomen of the cow leaving less room for her rumen. All ruminants end up with a bit of an energy gap between how much energy they need at the end of pregnancy and how much they can physically eat but problems with ketosis start to show when this energy gap becomes excessive. Ketosis is driven by poor intakes because of lameness, sickness, being over conditioned, carrying twins, not enough bunk space etc.

The natural energy gap right at the end of pregnancy means the cow starts to break down their body fat to fill the energy deficit. Ketones are an important and normal energy source for the cow in times of need, but in excess these ketones have negative consequences with respect to fertility, health and production.

When we talk about ketosis, we often think of the sick fresh cow, the pear drop smell, milk drop, poor appetite, poor rumen fill and the risk of an LDA. However, these are indicators of clinical ketosis and are just the tip of the iceberg. There will be many other cows with high ketone levels which show no clinical signs and this will be affecting their performance – this is known as hidden or subclinical ketosis; it's like driving with the handbrake on.

Ketone testing - normal levels are below 1.0 for freshly calved cows

Who are your high risk ketosis cows?

Think "SOFT":

Sick - any animals who have been lame or sick in their dry period

Older cows - in lactation 3 and above

Fat animals with Body Condition Score ≥3.5

Carrying twins

As always, preventing transition problems with good management should be our top priority, but there will always be a need to manage these individual SOFT cows too.

How does a Kexxtone Bolus help?

Kexxtone boluses contain Monensin which is slowly released into the rumen for 95 days and reduces the risk of ketosis by 74% in treated cows.

Have a look at this video to see how Kexxtone works inside the rumen:

Tips for using Kexxtone boluses:

  • Make sure you wear gloves when handling the bolus as some people are allergic
  • Write the cow number onto the bolus using a permanent marker in case she regurgitates it
  • record your Kexxtone boluses in your meds book
Some milk contracts are monitoring the use of Kexxtone boluses. It goes without saying that these boluses should not be used instead of a good transition, but as well as a good transition and targeted just for vulnerable SOFT cows.
Statement from TSDG on the use of Kexxtone boluses

Would you like a free Transition Assessment Visit?

Elanco are supporting HFV to do some proactive Transition Assessment Visits - click on the link below to book yours in.


Some of you who have used Kexxtone boluses before will know a small proportion will get regurgitated in the first few days - if you've written the cow ID on the bolus, these boluses can be re-administered to the right cow.

Kexxtone found, out in the wild

Kexxtone boluses are highly toxic to farm dogs if they find a regurgitated bolus before you do and eat one - so if you see strange neurological signs in any of your farm dogs and you are using Kexxtone boluses then please get them seen ASAP.

Disbudding - the stress free way

Most of you will have been disbudding for years, but there have been a few changes to Red Tractor Standards recently meaning all disbuds now need anti-inflammatory as well as local anaesthetic to block the cornual nerve.

The local anaesthetic numbs the horn bud area for around 2 hours; using Metacam at 1ml/40kg under the skin will provide longer term pain relief for the calf. This is particularly important at this time of year when you are trying to avoid any stressors that could make calves vulnerable to pneumonia.

Effect of local and anti-inflammatory on pain response in disbudded calves

Red Tractor Standards V5:

Don't forget to log the local anaesthetic and the anti-inflammatory in your medicine records - some farm assurance inspectors will be looking for this detail on your visit.

Stress-free Disbuds:

In the last 18 months we have disbudded 2,268 calves at HFV
Calves sedated, ready for disbudding
  • we sedate the calves: this means there is very little stress on the calf as we do the local block and inject the metacam when they are asleep
  • we disbud early: 2-3 weeks is ideal, before the horn bud attaches to the skull
  • we can do extra jobs at the same time: genomic test, intranasal vaccine, extra teat removal, check navels
  • we disbud around 45-60 calves an hour
  • we can disbud in large batches for block calving herds, or we can add on 10 calves at the end of a regular fertility visit
Freshly disbudded calf


From 31st Dec 2022 there will be a few changes to TB rules when it comes to moving TB restricted cattle into Isolation Units (IU) or Approved Finishing Units (AFU) which should make it easier to move cattle off restricted units.


A previous clear TB test for an individual cow or calf from a herd under restrictions will now count for 60 days, not 30.


A PRMT will no longer be required for cattle moving between AFU's (with, or without grazing) or via orange markets. This is only allowed if there are no non-compliances with either AFU at the last audit visit.

All of these movements will still need to be licensed by APHA in the usual way.


Cattle moving from a TB restricted herd to an AFU or via an orange market will still need a negative TB test in the last 90 days before movement. Restricted calves under 42 days old on day of movement are still exempt from TB testing but will need licensing via APHA as usual.

WORMS - is the season over yet?!

APHA has recorded increasing cases of wormed lambs scouring, losing weight and dying.

Some of these animals have been recently wormed, but the recent wet mild spell after a dry August has meant there is a late flush of worms on the pasture and lambs are quickly getting re-infected.

On post-mortem, many of these lambs have huge burdens of immature worms in the guts causing the scour, weight loss and deaths but these immature worms won't yet be shedding eggs so worm egg counts can be misleading. This is also being seen in first season grazing calves.

As seasons change, and we see milder weather persisting later in the year, we will have to adapt worming management plans to avoid these losses.


Paula: 07764 747855 paula@haywoodfarmvets.com

Tom: 07837 291097 tom@haywoodfarmvets.com

Amy: 07507 656747 amy@haywoodfarmvets.com

Enquiries: mail@haywoodfarmvets.com

Website: haywoodfarmvets.com

Open hours: M-F 08:30 - 16:30

Out of Hours: 01630 810016

Created By
Paula Scales