New Cow Testing Programmes

  1. Giving the cow a “GOOD START”
  • The transition period is the most important period in the lactating cow’s year, with 80% of disease costs associated with this period1. For this reason it is essential that every dairy cow gets a good start to their lactation.
  • Subclinical hypocalcemia and subclinical ketosis/ negative energy balance (NEB) are the main reasons why dairy cows do not get off to a “GOOD START”.
  • Up to 50% of freshly calved dairy cows suffer from one or both conditions during the transition period, this in turn leads to
  • Reduced fertility,
    • Reduced milk yield,
    • Metritis,
    • Mastitis
    • Displaced abomasum 2
  • Monitoring the metabolic profile of the herd in the transition period allows for effective decision making around prevention and treatment of these transition period problems
    • Low Calcium levels associated with subclinical hypocalcemia
    • Elevated BHB and NEFA levels associated with NEB
    • Low blood urea nitrogen levels are associated with poor availability of rumen degradable protein.
    • Albumin levels are associated with liver function and long-term protein status.
    • Elevated globulin levels can be indicative of chronic inflammation 3

2. The FarmLab Cow-Life programme monitors key health parameters in the herd on a continuous basis throughout lactation, thereby ensuring problems relating to health, parasites, and mastitis can be proactively detected.

Bulk tank milk is monitored throughout the lactation for:

Infectious disease – Leptospirosis. IBR, Salmonella, Mycoplasma, Neospora

Parasites – Gutworm and Liver Fluke

Mastitis – Individual culture of clinical mastitis / high SCC cases and Bulk tank milk PCR to detect the main mastitis causing organisms.

For more detailed information click on the download section of this website, items 13 and 14 or contact:
via email, [email protected]

As the seasons change

As the seasons change so does the nature of work being carried out at FarmLab. As we move from autumn to winter and drying off there is a big increase in the volumes of milk sample bacteriology being carried out. Bacteriological culture and sensitivity testing of milk samples is a useful means to identify which types of bacteria are causing problems on farm. Identification of contagious organisms such as Staphylococcus aureus, can have a big influence in determining how to approach the issue of dry cow therapy, and the issue of the use of antibiotics at drying off. Equally identification of organisms on farm which may be resistant to some antibiotics is essential when considering which treatments to use. The attending veterinary practitioner is uniquely placed to advise on the selection of antibiotics treatments, and helping to advise on whether antibiotics are required in certain cows at drying time (“Selective Dry Cow Therapy”). The use of milk culture and sensitivity testing is an essential tool in making an informed decision.

BEEP Scheme faecal sampling

Farmlab Diagnostics are a designated laboratory for BEEP Faecal testing.

In order to be able to provide the best quality of service in relation to BEEP faecal testing, we are taking a limited number of orders for BEEP faecal testing kits up to and including July 15th 2022. Due to limited capacity, we are only in a position to carry out BEEP testing for customers who sent BEEP samples to us previously in 2021.
BEEP testing kits can only be ordered by sending an email to [email protected]

We have now stopped taking orders for BEEP sampling kits. Kits which have already been sent out should be returned before 2/9/22

The last date for return of samples to FarmLab is 2/9/22. Note this is earlier than the DAFM cut off date, this is to allow time to process samples and return data to DAFM before their cut off date.

Enquiry’s relating to BEEP testing will be taken by email only. Enquiries should be made to [email protected].

Controlling Johnes disease

Watch our video here with Vet John Gilmore as he discusses Johnes disease

What is it?

Johnes disease is a chronic disease affecting herds causing a range of symptoms and having a massive impact on production and performance.

It is caused by a bacteria called MAP (mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis). This bacteria will be ingested by young animals, typically calves and lie dormant for years. We typically don’t see the symptoms of the disease before two years of age.

It is usually brought into herds by infected animals that are not showing any symptoms. There is a huge value for farms to know their johnes status when selling animals. Also, this must be a question more farmers need to be asking when purchasing stock.

In Ireland, we have our national Johnes control program. This program is being run by Animal Health Ireland with industry, vets, and farmers. This requires routine testing in conjunction with vet supported on-farm risk assessments.

We encourage all farmers to get involved in this important program aimed at johnes control in our national herd.

What are the symptoms?

We must remember johnes disease is a chronic disease meaning that it progresses slowly even after calves being infected or ingesting the bacteria. Some older infected animals will show no symptoms but will still be shedding continuing the cycle on the farm.

The typical symptoms we see with johnes are scouring, reduced feed efficiency and weight loss. This happens because the bacteria when it activates in the lower gut causes intestinal swelling and this leads to poor absorption of nutrients.

This then leads to scouring and weight loss. These animals are a really big source of infection for other animals especially calves.

How is it spread?

An animal positive for johnes will spread the bacteria in three ways

  1. In faeces in huge numbers which is the biggest risk
  2. In colostrum to young calves and also in milk
  3. They may infect their unborn calf in the womb also

The young animals will typically ingest the bacteria in faeces or maybe colostrum. It will then go to the intestine where it will almost go into hibernation. In this state, it also isn’t picked up by the immune system making testing impossible.

It begins to reactivate in animals as they get older (usually in animals >2 years old).

This continues the cycle with some showing symptoms as the disease progresses and also beginning shedding.

It can have a massive impact on profit and performance.

There are two critical elements to control, testing with a subsequent culling policy and controlling the spread on the farm (reducing the risk).

How can we test for it?

There are two main ways to test for johnes in milk or by blood sampling. With both these tests, we are checking for antibodies to the disease. This means that animals under two years of age are not tested as they may have been exposed but will be showing no evidence of the disease.

At farmlabs, we specialize in testing and improving animal health through the use of cutting edge science.

Faecal testing can also be used to isolate the bacteria itself to confirm blood or milk test results.

Watch the above as John outlines the key elements of testing and why with a chronic disease like johnes testing must be carried out over a number of years to establish the status of the herd.

When we identify johnes positive animals then we must start working on appropriate culling policy depending on numbers.

Talk to your veterinary surgeon about how you can start testing for and putting controls in place on your farm.

Controlling the risk

If we know the main spread is particularly by faeces, then milk and possibly in the womb to calves. We must work hard to reduce the risk of spread. Firstly with testing we can identify the positive cows and take very specific risk management with them around calving.

When we have johnes in our herds all these risks still need to be minimized for all stock.

For dairy calves, this is by snatch calving and avoiding things like pooling colostrum.

Here we outline why we need to get serious about johnes disease and its spread. Focus heavily on regular yearly tests (60 days must be left for testing after tb testing) and culling policies. Then work hard on reducing the spread within the herd.

For more information about johnes testing contact us on (071) 9630792  or email [email protected]

Top tips for taking milk samples

 Top tips for milk sampling

At farmlabs, we test hundreds of milk samples every month for farmers and vets to determine what pathogens are involved in mastitis cases. Getting a handle on these bugs can mean we can make better decisions on how to stop the spread. Different bacteria will act in different ways causing mastitis, it is important to identify these pathogens on your farm.

It can also inform us about what treatments might be effective. We perform culture and sensitivity testing on samples to check which antibiotics work on these bacteria.

To get the most accurate results it is so important to take the sample correctly. We must avoid contamination of samples as this will impact on the test results.

Watch our video here about 7 top tips to milk sampling

  • Get cotton wool and make swabs that you can then soak in alcohol to clean the teats effectively.
  • You will need clean gloves and sterile sample pots to take the milk sample into.
  • Use CMT (California mastitis test) to identify mastitis or pick up high SCC quarters
  • clean the outside of the teat first
  • Clean the teat orifice thoroughly
  • Draw out that teat twice before sampling
  • Angle sample container to minimize contamination
  • Fill the tube half full at least
  • Label your sample container with a tag number of the cow
  • Post quickly

Getting a good sample is essential to getting good quality results.

For more information about milk sampling and mastitis control contact us on 071 9630792 or email [email protected]

Focus on IBR control now

What is IBR?

Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis is an infectious viral disease of cattle that is contagious. It belongs to a family of viruses called herpesvirus. These viruses are different because they can develop latency. This means after initially becoming infected the animal may get sick or may appear clinically normal. Then the virus subsequently goes into hiding (in the nervous system) and can reactivate or reappear in times of stress. This means these animals often don’t get sick again but will shed the virus to infect other animals.

People will be familiar with the cold sore virus which acts in a very similar fashion in humans.


The virus affects the upper respiratory system of cattle. It can cause irritation and reddening of the airways and eyes. It can cause coughing and breathing difficulty. A lot of animals can become sick with the virus and will run a temperature of over 40 degrees Celsius.

It can also shed out to the bloodstream causing fertility issues and abortion.

How is it spread?

It can be spread in aerosol secretions from sick infected animals. This is usually by close contact or while sharing the same airspace. Another reason why ventilation and fresh air are so important. When controlling respiratory disease in cattle giving animals space and fresh air is so important indoors.

Adult animals shedding the disease can pose a risk to younger stock with little or no immunity.

Latently infected carriers can also shed the virus when reactivated through some stressors. They will not shed as much virus as infected animals but can be a significant source of infection. The real risk here is when we buy in these carrier animals (look healthy) they can then start shedding in the herd when becoming stressed.

This is where blood testing of bought-in stock for IBR may prove very valuable.

Some examples of these cases we have seen are where cows are bought in and at calving time start shedding.

They then can infect other cows at calving who are stressed causing significant clinical disease.

Watch our video as Farmlab vet John Gilmore discusses above the mechanisms by which IBR sheds and spreads.

IBR can cause significant issues with sick animals and disease. Not just respiratory disease, but infertility and immunosuppression.

How can we test for it?

Thankfully we have very effective tests for IBR virus in our state of the art laboratory. We can use blood samples to check for antibodies or use milk samples in dairy cows. Bulk milk screening tests are very useful for monitoring IBR levels in the dairy herd.

At farmlabs we also have a very unique PCR test that can pick up the virus on nasal swabs, This test can be used by your vet on clinical cases where there is a suspicion of respiratory disease and IBR.

We can also check the windpipe of animals we have carried out post mortems on by using PCR to check for the virus.

Talk to your vet today about sampling your herd to check for IBR status.

IBR antibodies can be checked for in blood

Control strategies

If your herd is IBR free then we must have very strict biosecurity to prevent the disease being bought in. This can be very difficult so most farms will incorporate vaccination as part of their control strategies.

IBR vaccination control programs work very well once the vaccine is used correctly and timed to protect animals at the greatest period of risk.

With a number of vaccination programs available talk to your vet about suitable protocols for your farm.

For more information about IBR testing, you can contact us on 071 9630792

New Submission form

We have added a new style of submission form for use by our veterinary clients. We hope that the new form will be easier to use, and has a full list of all of the tests which are available from FarmLab Diagnostics, including our new range of equine tests.  The form also contains information on the various tests which we offer, which means that in total it is 7 pages long. We only require that the first two pages, which can be printed front on back on one sheet will be used for sending with samples. We advise vets to read the information provided on the other sheets to avoid confusion in relation to test submission, and limitations of certain tests. The form is available for download from our downloads page or can be accessed directly by clicking on the following link: Should vet practices have any queries please feel to contact us to discuss. F#514-1 Diagnostics Sample Submission Form.docx

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