Plenty of points for discussion at livestock show - Veterinary Practice
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InFocus

Plenty of points for discussion at livestock show

RICHARD GARD
spent a fair amount of time at
last month’s Dairy Event and
Livestock Show at the NEC and
found veterinary surgeons and
farmers blending well together

THE Dairy Event and Livestock Show at the National Exhibition Centre is large. Fortunately, most of it is under cover, apart from the larger pieces of machinery and some of the demonstrations, but it is a challenge to be able to visit the many stands and presentations in one day. Veterinary surgeons would perhaps not expect to look on a visit as CPD but the breadth and depth of the offerings are unlikely to be fully known by even the best informed member of practice. What was most striking about the show this year was the way that the veterinary topics blended in with the products on display and how the supporting technical information in literature mirrored the veterinary view. Much of this information did not come from companies that have direct veterinary links, but effective communication was taking place in the background at the technical level and it appeared to be from vets and to vets. As this was a dairy show, the presentation by Andy Biggs of the Cobactan National Mastitis Survey seemed a natural location to discuss trends with mastitis, as identified by farmers. With over 1,000 responses the data stand up to scrutiny and some interesting trends emerged, including:

  • more cows are milked per milker in higher cell count herds;
  • lower cell count herds tend to use combination antibiotic therapy (an injection plus an intramammary);
  • herds that are teat dipped tend to have lower cell counts than herds that are sprayed;
  • the treatment of high cell count cows is more common in high cell count herds.

A worrying trend is that fewer herds are using post-milking teat disinfection but there is an increase in pre-milking disinfection. Calculations of yield, cows and milking units reveal the litres of
milk produced per unit and one indication is that the milking operator is finding it more difficult to concentrate for the whole of the milking. The more milk per unit, the longer the milking time. These points and many others led to discussion amongst those attending the presentation and the point was made about automated teat disinfection systems. Just around the corner was a display of yellow clusters that could be fitted to any parlour system. A demonstration unit indicated that at the end of milking, as the vacuum is shut off, teat dip is injected into a manifold on the clawpiece. Teat dip is applied to the teat as the teat cup is withdrawn by the automatic cluster removal system. The teats are coated in dip and after removal every liner is disinfected and thoroughly rinsed. The literature says that “traditional post-milking routines are not only timeconsuming but disruptive to milking and can be prone to human error”. A
practical issue emphasised was that “more cows means more time spent milking, putting pressure on other jobs which can lead to problems”. So is this the approach that the veterinary adviser will be discussing with clients as there are direct claims that the ADF system can reduce mastitis and lower cell counts? One of the interesting teat coverage aspects is that the “dip” is applied while the teat is extended within the liner rather than
after it has returned to normal length after milking. Alternatively, a farmer may be considering a full-on robotic system to overcome the labour concentration factors. Just next door, Lely had refined its options to include robot rental at £70 per day, including installation, software, consumables and support for seven years. The promotion was that the contract option eliminates uncertainty about future costs and provides peace of mind. Emphasis again on being able to relax and provide more cow care, or even more time to talk to the vet. The ADF cluster units are also offered on contract hire, with direct cost claim advantages over consumables and labour of 2p per cow milked at each milking. Within the Farm Health Planning
Seminars, vets and farmers combined to promote the latest approaches to managing milk fever, cattle health and welfare, zero tolerance towards lame cows with mobility scoring and prompt responses, the benefits of Johne’s disease control, the team approach to mastitis control with informed decision making utilising data, and the encouragement for every farm to establish the BVD status of the herd. Also outlined was the need to measure fertility rates and to embrace modern fertility management aids. This was all delivered in correct veterinary style with bums on seats. Over the way was a large red display promoting the latest developments in automated heat detection. An alert is raised as a print-out, or, with automated gates, the cow can be directed into a holding area after milking. The system combines conductivity of the milk with yield deviation, the time taken for the cow to be milked and changes in the temperature of the milk. This system was being offered as a free update to farmers with a Vaccar milking parlour. It would be interesting to have a veterinary practitioner’s view of these developments and promotions with maybe a workshop of farmers touring the various technical stands, following a veterinary leader.

Heat detection

One of the “farm skills” promoted by XL Vets on its stand was heat detection in dairy cows. Listing some 47 veterinary practices supporting the programme, the lime green T-shirts have become a feature of the show. This year, however, the balls were flying, along with spinning plates, as juggling skills were attracting passers-by to try their hand. The whole emphasis seemed to be that the attention to detail and understanding that is the “farm skills” undercurrent does not have to be a straight-faced dour activity. On the three occasions that I passed the stand there were smiles and laughter along with the concentration. One of the announcements at the show by the Agriculture Minister was a fund of £176,000 for a dairy industry
CPD scheme towards raising standards of knowledge and skills.
More than 1,000 dairy farmers and workers are expected to benefit over the next two years with the scheme being managed by DairyCo. The DairyCo proposals were selected after a consultation period and feasibility study and will be supported by further funding from DariyCo. Information is available via
www.dairyco.org.uk. A visit to the DairyCo stand could easily take up an hour or two. We are likely to hear much more about the Profitable Lifetime Index which presents the financial improvements a bull is predicted to pass on to his daughters in a lifetime. A somewhat technical summary poster is available which is printed on both sides so two will be needed for a practice notice board. Basically, milk production traits make up 45% of the index and health, welfare and type the other 55%. A PLI of £200 indicates that daughters of that bull are predicted to earn £200 more than daughters of a £0 bull. A herd genetic report is available which offers an average PLI of the herd. A pocket-sized field guide to hoof care is also available which has 40 pages of information and pictures to help understanding about aspects of hoof problems and cow care. This forms part of the Healthy Feet Programme together with a Foot Lesion picture card. This A4 card illustrates 12 foot lesions and conditions and will be of benefit to all associated with recognising and preventing mobility and lameness issues (www.healthyfeetprogramme.co.uk). DEFRA is promoting the
Campaign for the Farmed Environment in order to meet targets for habitats and wildlife by June 2012. The carrot is grant aid and the stick compulsory noncompensated managed set aside. Details from www.cfeonline.org.uk. A further compulsory topic being talked about is the introduction of treatment recommendations in new milk contracts. Information on this is
being collected and the background, conclusions and indications for prescribing therapy are to be reviewed. The farmer can now watch his cows from a mobile ’phone. A cow-cam sends images to the farm computer which can then be accessed by ’phone. If the farmer wishes to check up on a calving cow, or see the cows being milked, video footage is relayed via the internet. This has possibilities for veterinary surgeons to also monitor animals on farm or even activities within the practice perhaps. Details from
www.dairyspares.co.uk.

  • The next event is due to take place on 4th and 5th September, 2012.

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