Read about all our services for farm animals

Farm Animals Services

Bull Breeding

Did you know that 20% of bulls are sub-fertile? Screen your bull stud pre-breeding and avoid using sub-fertile or infertile bulls.

Fertile bulls: Defined as being capable of impregnating >95% of 50 normally cycling cows/heifers in a nine week mating period.

Sub-fertile bulls: It has been found that around 20% of bulls are incapable of doing this, meaning they are sub-fertile. 'Sub-fertile' means that although the bull will get cows pregnant, the rate of conception to him is too low to achieve pregnancy in >95% of 50 normally cycling cows in a nine week mating period. The practice of rotating bulls around mating groups will mask the presence of sub-fertile bulls, making them very difficult to detect by the farmer.

Infertile bulls: A few bulls are infertile, which means that they are incapable of getting any females pregnant and they are more often detected by the farmer because all females mated are seen to return to oestrus.

Sub-fertility or infertilty is caused by either phyiscal defects in the bull limiting his ability to mate frequently or poor quality semen.

Bull Breeding Soundness Examination

Over the last decade in the UK, routinely examining bulls for breeding soundness has become increasingly popular with many herds now screening all bulls before each mating period to ensure maximum pregnancy rates over a short time period by not using bulls that are identified as sub-fertile or infertile. Of course, individual bulls whose fertility performance is suspect can also be examined to assess their breeding soundness.

We offer this service, which involves a full phyiscal examination of the bull and his internal and external reproductive organs followed by semen collection using an electro-ejeculator and evaluation of the semen. Each bull then receives a certificate outlining the findings and whether or not he is of normal fertility and suitabled for breeding. This allows the farmer to make sound decisions on which bulls to use.

Examination of the bull stud about one month before the mating period is recommended. The factilites required on farm are a decent handling facility with a crush that has a side opening, allowing access to the bulls prepuce, a power source and 'bench space' nearby to set up microscope, etc.

Dairy Herd Fertility

We are committed to supporting farmers who wish to achieve the best fertility for their herd. Below you will find the information you need about Dairy Herd Fertility to decide upon the ideal service for your herd.

  1. See our presentation on Practical Dairy Fertility
  2. See the Dairy Fertility Packages below that are on offer from MBM Veterinary Group
  3. See the Aide Memoirs for cows to present at veterinary fertility visits; these are all based on the herd having a voluntary waiting period of 50 days (the time from calving to the first allowed insemination)

Please do not hesitate to call us if you have any questions or enquiries.

About our Dairy Herd Fertility Services

  • Up-to-date, cutting edge knowledge and services to support reprodcutive proformance, underpinned by RCVS Recognised Specialist in Cattle Health and Production
  • Reproductive ultrasound scanners and pregnancy diagnosis from 28 days after service
  • Computer software for state of the art analysis of fertility data and production of action lists
  • Data can be uploaded from the following software programmes: QMM Milk Manager; Sum-It DairyMate; Sum-It Total Dairy; CDL Data file (NMR/CIS); Interherd; Unifrom Agri .Dat; Westfalia Parlours; Irish Cattle Breeding Federation; Gatling File
Service List Package 1 Package 2 Package 3
Routine visit to examine cows for pregnancy (from 28 days post service), non observed oestrus, etc. Frequency agreed dependent on herd size.
Agree management/treatment protocol to guarantee submission of most cows for service by an agreed number of days in milk.
Routine body condition scoring of late lactation, late dry cows and cows at peak yield.  
Fertility review and action plan: Quarterly upload of farm data for full data analysis and farm walk to identify areas for improvement and agree/monitor actions to improve fertility. Production of action list for cows to examine at each visit.  
Mini metabolic profile on late dry cows and cows one to three weeks calved quarterly.    
Dairy 'fertility club' meeting annually near Kilmarnock to share ideas with like-minded farmers and relevant speakers.


Suckler Herd Fertility

Good fertility results in more pounds of beef sold per cow per year by minimising the number of barren cows and mazimising the number of cows calving early in the calving period, so that calves are heavier at weaning. For interested in maximising their herd's fertility, we recomment reading the booklet Improving Suckler Herd Fertility.

Targets for Suckler Herd Fertility

These targets may appear high but some farmers are consistently achieving these levels of performance.

  • Calvings per cow and heifer put to the bull - 95%
  • Barren cows - 5% or less
  • Cows calving in first 3 weeks - 65%
  • Bulling periods - 9 weeks for cows and 6 weeks for heifers
  • Calf mortality birth to weaning - <2%
  • Calves reared - 94% (calves reared to cows and heifers bulled)
  • Adult cows with difficult calvings <5%
  • Replacement rate <15% (from QMS publication Improving Suckler Herd Fertility)

You can assess your own herd's performance by completing the fertility assessment form.

Suckler Herd Fertility Services

  • Bull breeding soundess examination (BSE)
  • Semen collection by electro-ejaculation or, if required, by artificial vagina
  • Data analysis/bench marking
  • Heifer rearing (parasite control, pneumonia prevention, etc.)
  • Infectious disease control (BVD, Lepto, etc.)
  • Pregnancy diagnosis (manual/scanning)

Remember that around 20% of bulls are subfertile and identifying these by routinely screening, the bull stud pre-breeding is one essential part of maintaining good herd fertililty. Please contact us for any questions or enquiries.

Fluke Treatment

Fluke is a commonly encountered problem, especially here in the West Coast of Scotland, where the wet mild weather is ideal for fluke development. Fluke or Fasciola hepatica is a trematode parasite that can infect a number of hosts, including sheep, cattle and man. In fact, it is estimated some 30 million humans are infected with fluke worldwide and infection is associated with the eating of uncooked aquatic plants. However, human infection is very rare in Scotland. Much more common is infection of cattle and sheep. In fact, economic loss due to fluke in cattle and sheep is estimated to be greater than £18 million a year in the UK and Ireland.

Life Cycle of Fluke

Liver fluke pass through an intermediate host before infecting cattle and sheep. Without this intermediate host, the fluke would be unable to develop into the form that is infective for cattle and sheep. The intermediate host for the most common liver fluke in the UK is an aquatic snail called Lymnaea Truncatula. Due to its aquatic nature, the snail thrives on waterlogged fields and as such fluke is more common in areas which tend to be heavily saturated. This includes the majority of the West Coast of Scotland.

Liver fluke development starts to occur when the average day and night temperature is above 10°C. This allows development of the eggs passed out from sheep and cattle through the intermediate host (snails) into a form known as metacercariae, which is infectious to cattle and sheep. If conditions are ideal, a single egg can produce 600 infectious metacercariae in just six weeks. Traditionally, the two main periods of infection for cattle and sheep were May to June and August to November. However, due to a number of factors including the changing climatic conditions, infection can occur at a number of other times throughout the year.

The infective stage for cattle and sheep (metacercariae) attach themselves to the grass where they are often then eaten. Once they are ingested, the juvenile fluke migrate through the liver of the host and eventually move to the bile ducts where they mature into adults and start laying eggs. These eggs then pass out in the droppings to infect more snails and so the life cycle continues. It is important to note that from the point of infection of cattle and sheep until the laying of eggs by adults takes 12 weeks. This means an animal can be infected with fluke and show clinical signs but test negative for fluke if tested by faecal egg count.


Fluke is more severe in sheep than cattle. In sheep, the clinical signs seen depend on the number of infectious matacercariae that are ingested. In the most severe cases, sudden death is the outcome. If slightly less metacecariae are ingested, then animals are weak with pale gums due to damaged red blood cells. Animals will also have difficulty in breathing and may have a swollen abdomen filled with fluid. Sometimes the presence of swelling under the jaw will also be appreciable. Some animals will only carry a few fluke and not show any direct clinical signs but will have general 'ill thrift'. For example, they will carry less condition and carry lambs to a lower birth weight, etc.

In cattle, fluke is very rarely fatal. Cattle mount a stronger immune response to fluke than sheep and therefore their liver is not as severely affected. Clinical signs are similar to the less severe infections of sheep with animals showing poorer BCS, lower milk yields and swelling under the jaw.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The gold standard diagnosis is a post mortem of an infected animal and the isolation of fluke from the liver. However, there are a number of ways of diagnosing fluke in living animals. A faecal sample can be used to look for eggs, however, as mentioned previously, this will only pick up infections that are at least 12 weeks old. Furthermore, fluke eggs are not that numerous in the droppings, therefore a negative test result does not guarantee that the animal is not infected. On dairy farms, a bulk milk test is available to give an idea of the level of infection on the farm. There is also an individual blood test available which looks at antibodies produced when an animal is infected. However, these antibodies can remain in the blood for up to six months after infection and therefore, a positive result does not confirm that the infection is current. A number of other tests are currently being evaluated and research into a vaccine is also being undertaken.

If an animal is found to be positive for fluke, then there are a number of treatments available. Triclabendazole is the typical drug of choice and is available in a number or preparations including:

  • Combinex Cattle (Novartis Animal Health)
  • Combinex Sheep (Novartis Animal Health)
  • Fasimec Duo S 0.1/5% (Novartis Animal Health: Sheep)
  • Fasinex 5% (Novartis Animal Health: Sheep)
  • Fasinex 10% (Novartis Animal Health: Cattle)
  • Tribex 5% Oral Suspension for Sheep (Chanelle Vet UK)
  • Tribex 5% Oral Suspension for Cattle (Chanelle Vet UK)

All of these products are administered as an oral drench. Triclabendazole is active against all forms of fluke from the immature fluke migrating through the liver to the mature adults in the bile ducts.

Closantel is the other drug available that has activity against immature fluke and is available in the following formulations:

  • Flukiver Oral Suspension (Sheep)
  • Mebadown Super Oral Suspension (Sheep)
  • Supaverm Oral Suspension (Sheep)

It is available from Janssen Animal Health.

Nitroxynil is another commonly used flukicide and is available as Trodax 34% (Merial) for use in both cattle and sheep. It has the advantage over the other products in that it comes in an injectable form. However, nitroxynil is less effective against fluke and does not prevent the damage they cause as they migrate through the liver.


Prevention is better than cure and there are a number of steps that can be taken to reduce fluke burdens in your stock. To get an idea if fluke is a problem in your herd, it is a good idea to get feedback from your abattoir. They will be able to inform you if any fluke were found in the liver during the meat inspection. In sheep, routine treatment of fluke is recommended. This is not usually necessary in cattle herds, unless fluke is known to be a problem on the farm. Treatment on dairy units can be a problem as none of the products listed are licensed for use in lactating cows if the milk is for human consumption. Therefore, treatment involves either drying off the cow early or waiting till the dry period to treat.

Some attempt can also be made to control the environment of the fluke and snails and make it less favorable therefore decreasing their numbers. Drainage can be improved on fields to make them less liable to water logging and therefore decreasing the snail's habitat. Furthermore, areas prone to flooding can be fenced off to prevent stock from grazing the area. Although these measures can be effective, they are often expensive and impractical.

Bovine Respiratory Disease

BRD is a problem commonly encountered by most farmers at one stage or another. A number of viruses and bacteria are implicated in outbreaks of BRD including;

  • Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR: Virus)
  • Bovine Respiratory Syncitial Virus (BRSV)
  • Parainfluenza Virus 3 (P13)
  • Bovine Viral Diarrhoea Virus (BVD)
  • Pasturella Multocida (Bacterial)
  • Manheimia Haemolytica (Bacterial)
  • Mycoplasma Bovis (Bacterial)

However, BRD is not as simple as a pathogen causing disease, rather there is a complex interaction between the animals' immune system, the environment in which the animal is kept and one or more of the above bugs. BRD can occur at any time of the year, but is most common over the winter months and is far more common in housed cattle although it can occur in animals at grass.

Clinical signs

BRD is commonly a group problem of housed calves in a shared airspace, such as calves in the same shed or byre. BRD can get into the herd in a number of ways. It can be brought in via animals bought at market, by animals moved from one farm to another, and can be brought on by stress, such as sudden change in the weather, transport, etc. It can affect all animals in the herd, but usually 50 - 75% of animals have visible clinical signs.

Clinically affected calves are usually dull, depressed and off feed with snotty noses, runny eyes and coughing either at rest or on movement. They often have increased temperature and exhibit a faster breathing rate with increased effort to breathe. Occasionally, obvious noises are audible as the animal is breathing. Clinically affected animals are the tip of the iceberg. It is likely all animals in the same shed will be affected to a greater or lesser extent. Therefore, even though an animal is showing no signs of infection, lung damage is likely to have occurred and will result in a decreased rate of weight gain for that animal. This will lead to increased feed costs and loss in profitability for the farm.


Treatment depends on the type of agent involved in BRD. However, studies have shown the the use of a NSAID (Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drug) such as Metacam along with an antibiotic can decrease the amount of lung damage that develops compared to treatment with antibiotics alone. Some drugs such as Nuflor, Resflor and Hexasol LA contain both an antibiotic and a NSAID in the one injection.


Prevention is always better than cure. A number of simple management procedures can drastically reduce the chances of BRD developing. Firstly, good calf management is vital to ensure that the calve's immunity is as strong as possible. Colostrum is vital and ideally all calves should drink four litres of colostrum within their first six hours. After this time, the ability of the calves gut to absorb protective antibodies from the milk starts to decrease rapidly.

Environment is key to decreasing the incidence of disease. Ideally, all calves should enter the air space at the same time and no more additions should be made (this is not always possible especially on dairy farms). All calves should leave the airspace at the same time and the pens should be thoroughly disinfected. Calves in the same airspace should all be of a similar age, and mixing of old and young stock in the same shed should be avoided.

Ventilation is also an important factor in BRD and must be considered at all stages of calf development. After the first few hours of life, a calf is unlikely to be too cold and the more ventilation present the better. The larger the airspace that the calves are kept in, the less respiratory pathogens will be present per m³ and this decreases the likelihood of them picking them up. Ventilation is something that needs to be considered, especially in old outbuildings that have been converted to store young stock.

There are also a number of commercially available vaccinations, all of which offer protection to one or more of the commonly encountered respiratory pathogens. These vaccines include:

  • Bovilis Bovipast RSP (Intervet)
  • Bovilis IBR Live (Intervet)
  • Bovilis IBR-Marker Live
  • Rispoval 3
  • Rispoval 4
  • Rispoval IBR-Marker Inactivated
  • Rispoval IBR-Marker Live
  • Rispoval Pasteurella
  • Rispoval RS
  • Rispoval RS & P13 Intranasal
  • Tracherine

 For advice on choosing the correct vaccine for your farm, please contact us.