Young vets, antibiotics and TB - Veterinary Practice
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Young vets, antibiotics and TB

The Vet of the Future awards were presented and a new TB advisory service for farmers was launched at this year’s South West Dairy Show

For the fifth year, the Bath and West Society has organised the Vet of the Future awards at the South West Dairy Show. Veterinary colleges are invited to put forward student projects of relevance to dairying. The standard of the submissions was praised by Alan Cotton, chairman of the judging panel. The awards were the brainchild of Peter Clarke, who as a local veterinary surgeon has been involved with the Society for many years. Unfortunately, Peter was unable to participate this year; Phil Kenward took his place and summarised the successful topics.

The aim is to maximise farm biosecurity and minimise risks associated with cattle movements. The project will not be judged on any reduction in TB incidence

David Melleney, formerly at Cambridge and now working at a West Yorkshire practice, was awarded the trophy. David assessed whether the milk fat to protein ratio can predict sub-acute ruminal acidosis (SARA) and analysed ruminal fluid. The diagnosis of SARA was described as ‘difficult’. Jessica Reynolds, formerly at Nottingham and now working in Leicestershire, reviewed some 30,000 cow records for the impact of Johne’s Disease on milk yield and pregnancy rates and was awarded a runner-up prize, together with Sarah Boulding.

Sarah, formerly at Liverpool and currently unplaced in practice, worked on gene sequencing (metataxanomics) for mastitis with cows in Columbia. A paper is due for publication. Each participant is interviewed by the judging panel and their approach to dairy work and future opportunities are discussed. All veterinary schools are encouraged to put forward candidates for 2018.

Reducing antibiotic use

The presentations were followed by a seminar session on reducing antibiotic use by Paddy Gordon (Shepton Veterinary Group). Such was the popularity of this session that people had to stand. Utilising various sources for data, Paddy pointed out that more antibiotics in mg/kg are administered to farm animals in Europe than to humans, but in the UK there is greater human use.

That 390,000 people are expected to die from antibiotic-resistant organisms in Europe by 2050, unless practices change, shocked the audience. Active health planning is seen as essential for dairy herds with a review of antibiotic use and targeted reductions. Farmers were encouraged to become antibiotic guardians (

There was an upbeat forecast for future milk production profitability at the show. The average farm profit in 2016/17 was 0.28p/litre, predicted to rise to 3p/litre this year. The Old Mill and Farm Consultancy Group indicate a rise in vet and medicine costs as more businesses are expected to increase the volume of vaccinations. Farmers are warned that over-production could start another downward cycle, but milk price is expected to average 29p/litre.

Bovine TB updates

A new, free, TB Advisory Service (TBAS) for farmers, within the High Risk and Edge areas of England, will operate for the next three years. The project’s technical director is Phil Elkins (Westpoint Veterinary Group) who, together with Sarah Tomlinson (Ashbourne Vets), launched the initiative at the show. The project is funded by Defra through the Rural Development Programme for England and will enable 2,400 advisory visits on a first come, first served basis. Following an initial enquiry from a farmer, an advisory visit will be arranged by a trained consultant within ADAS, Kingshay and Westpoint Farm Vets. It is intended that the farmer’s veterinary practice will be involved, particularly in agreeing the four interventions for the farm that will be specifically targeted at the herd situation.

The aim is to maximise farm biosecurity and minimise risks associated with cattle movements. The project will not be judged on any reduction in TB incidence. A telephone advice service is also available for farmers wishing to clarify aspects of bTB control.

Leaflets are available for practices to pass on to clients. Contacts are:;; telephone 01306 779410.

Global experience

Anthony Duignam (DAFF Ireland) reviewed how the rest of the world deals with bTB. An important point from the Australian experience is that on-farm controls have to be tightened as eradication progresses. There are implications here for the UK approach if farmers and vets expect to be control-active for a few years and then slacken off.

In New Zealand, the reduction in bTB is directly related to the vector controls expenditure (possum and ferrets). Mozambique is utilising BCG as a cattle vaccine and in South Africa, clinical TB in the joints of lions is restricting their ability to breed.

France was officially TB-free, but breakdowns are increasing. In Ireland, badgers are trapped within 2km of an infected herd and in 2002, 50% were found to be positive; this has dropped to 15% in the high TB areas and 10% in low-incidence areas. The detection of bTB lesions at slaughterhouses has been very variable, with lesions not detectable with the naked eye. The variable quality of tuberculin production is a concern.

Ifan Lloyd (St James Veterinary Group) updated delegates on the Gower Project that began in 2009. At the start, 73 of the 110 herds (two dairy) had been under restriction for over five years and in July 2017 eight were restricted, with 10% restricted at any one time. Dead badgers are examined for bTB and within the Gower, three have been found positive.

Best practice events for farmers have been developed with benchmarking, risk reduction assessments and agreed control actions. A biosecurity risk scoring tool has been applied on 30 farms. The Gower includes common land with mixed grazing, which requires particular consideration for biosecurity planning.

In 2017, 85% of the land has been surveyed utilising six surveyors working in pairs. Each surveyor is able to survey 0.7km sq per day with the number of holes per sett recorded. Main setts, satellite setts and latrines are mapped. It has been necessary to obtain the consent of all landowners and the work is ongoing to relate badger activity with cattle TB.

The disease status of the badgers on restricted farms is not available. The Gower peninsula has a limited land boundary and the movement of badgers within and between herds may help to guide future control policies.

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