Farmers are adapting well to new animal health regulations, according to Kamo vet Luke (Lurch) Goodin.
He said in most cases his clients had been early adopters of the broad-ranging changes, so it was business as usual at a busy time of year on farms – apart from the not-so-small matter of working through a Covid-19 level 4 lockdown.
Key among the latest changes, introduced in May this year, are new rules around surgical procedures on animals.
The Animal Welfare (Care and Procedures) Regulations 2018 cover a large range of topics and types of animals, including farm husbandry, companion animals, stock transport and surgical procedures.
There are large penalties for breaching the rules.
Goodin said many procedures now required anaesthetics, which in most cases would need to be administered by a vet. An example of this is calf disbudding where calves are now required to have an effective nerve block to eliminate pain from the procedure.
"It's pretty nice for the animals. They get to have a wee sleep and we can quickly take care of quite a few things like vaccinations, tagging, dehorning and DNA testing as well as checking for and tidying up extra teats,'' he said.
Some calves were born with five and sometimes up to eight teats.
"The extra teats can sometimes become quite big and can interfere with milking when they are older so are best removed when the calf is young.''
Goodin said the recent level 4 lockdown had been a challenge for vets and farmers during a busy time of year on farms.
"We had to go back into workplace bubbles with masks and social distancing. We couldn't be in close contact with farmers so we became self-sufficient.
"All the routine work with small animals had to be stopped unless it was an emergency, so our vet nurses had a change of scene by coming out to help us.
"It was really good to have company on our rounds and I think they enjoyed it too. It was great to have an extra pair of hands when the farmer would have usually been there to help. Our support staff did an incredible job over this really difficult period.''
Level 2 has allowed the resumption of clinic work, with the protection of face masks and social distancing.
"There is a now quite a backlog of work, so everyone has been busy with catching up on operations like speys and neuters of pets and other non-urgent procedures,'' he said.
Goodin said the most unusual patient of the recent lockdown had been on the first day of level 3 when a fisherman had accidentally hooked his dog through a paw.
"It's been quite a warm and very wet winter so that's a recipe for bugs and worms,'' Goodin said.
Leptospirosis is one of particular significance. Goodin said there were new animal vaccines being trialled for lepto, which is a debilitating disease spread from animals to humans through urine.
Leptospirosis is a blood infection caused by a bacteria and causes high fever, red eyes, headache, joint and muscle pain. It can be life threatening and can also be recurring.
"Not many farmers realise that if a calf is infected before it is fully vaccinated, it will remain a shedder of the disease for life … even after if it is vaccinated.
"Leptospirosis is really prevalent in Northland and can be really debilitating for farmers.''
Coccidiosis is another challenge for Northland farmers, with the parasitic disease affecting all types of animals once they have swallowed the parasites by eating infected pasture and feed, drinking contaminated water or by grooming themselves.
"There are some cool new drenches that are now available for these types of diseases,'' Goodin said.
As is the case for most animal diseases, prevention is the key, with new drugs offering good barriers to infection.
"Farmers now have more tools available.
"New tests for mastitis now allow farmers to conduct the milk culturing themselves on farm. They can take a milk sample, culture it overnight and have the results to analyse and accurately treat the bug the next day.
"Farmers are using these testing kits to build up a picture of what is happening on the farm that might be causing the mastitis infections. They can now tell from the different bacteria involved where their systems might be breaking down.
"From those results they can use that knowledge to modify their farming practices,'' he said.
Such measures are crucial when Fonterra offers monetary incentives for good health measures.
"We work with farmers to develop an animal health plan, which can translate to more income when they meet the health targets.''
When not at work, Goodin fishes, mountain bikes and looks after his lifestyle block with his wife, Fiona, who is also a vet.
They have a purebred Olde English Babydoll Southdown flock, with about 40 breeding ewes.
"We imported some embryos from the UK in 2017 and have been building up numbers. The Babydolls are really cute and their diminutive size makes them ideal for lifestyle blocks.''
They sell animals through their Smiling Sheep website.