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Agricultural show reveals the latest in livestock care

by
01 August 2010, at 12:00am

Veterinary Practice visited the Royal Cornwall Show to see the variety of livestock, products and services on display.

There is nothing like a traditional agricultural show to have a good look at the current developments and products that are available for looking after livestock. 

Some shows have been given over to the leisure side but although you can view every conceivable implement to improve the garden, join the army or take delivery of a hot tub, the Royal Cornwall Show is still dedicated to agriculture proper. 

Maybe this is why Prince Charles was visiting and seen to be taking an interest in the chainsaw wood carving. He may even have joined in with the general view that tractors and implements have become “too darn expensive”. 

Cow comfort and recycling may appear to be distantly linked but the rubber bed for cubicles, made out of old trainers, caught the eye. These are promoted as cubicle mattresses, 40mm thick, described as a rubber insulating top cover with textile reinforcement inside. 

The cover is non-slip and nonabrasive, suitable for all weights of livestock, washable, and comes with a 10-year guarantee. Trials are taking place and the findings will be published by the Kingshay Trust in due course. 

The cubicle display was next to the wavy race designs, based on the work of Temple Grandin. It would be interesting to see such an installation in action for TB testing but maybe a video is available. If anyone knows of one it’s likely there will be considerable interest if installation of curves makes the job easier with fractious bullocks. 

The black recycled plastic material, shown at an earlier welfare conference, is also now available as curved sections of galvanised sheeting. No prices are offered as standard so it seems that the first farmers to negotiate an installation deal, by offering a few pictures or a demonstration, will save a few bob. 

Planning for outwintering of dry cows, suckler cows, beef steers and youngstock on woodchip pads, as an alternative to straw yards or grassland, needs to take place soon. Finishing cattle are said to gain weight better on pads compared to those housed on slats or in straw yards, for the same feeding regime. 

The work required to construct the pads, to contain and control effluent, has been the subject of extensive study and after a difficult beginning the details appear to be established. There is a balance between the size of the woodchip, the number of animals on the pad and the cleanliness of the animals. 

As the beasts are exposed to the elements throughout the winter, it is necessary to avoid thin-skinned breeds, as the weight gain benefit may be lost in shivering. Further details and construction plans are available from www.eblex.org.uk and the photo was taken at a demonstration workshop at North Wyke during a particularly wet period. 

At the end of the cattle handling race there will be a cattle handling system for hoof trimming. Traditionally these were referred to as a crush but nowadays the machine is designed to contain the animal, and all the relevant parts, so that any aspect can be attended to with the minimum of stress on the animal or the operator. 

At one time a basic model had boltons including a head scoop, front belly harness, front belly strap, high level rear leg winch, front and rear hoof blocks and various lifting straps. The first import of the Cattle Loco system, from Wisconsin, was being demonstrated without a cow in situ but the various tilts and lifts that could be achieved looked very impressive. 

This machine was being interrogated by hoof trimmers, rather than farmers, but there may be an example arriving near you fairly soon. The system was being described as “the Ferrari of cattle care” but this may have been due to the colour rather than performance. 

Milk production and all matters associated with dairying is a major topic for the south-west of England. There is concern from the milk buyers about the drop in milk production. The figures for the country are very large and to see the information that 33.4 million litres less milk were produced in 2009-10 compared to 2008-09 appears rather daunting, even though total production was some 12,825 million litres. 

The annual awards from Milk Link for the best combined Bactoscan, somatic cell count, butterfat, protein, no antibiotic failures or extraneous water, cover the results for the year to March. The award is split between herds with an annual supply of less than and more than 500,000 litres. 

The shortfall in production is therefore represented by no production at all from some 50 dairy herds. Pictures were available of the Cornish-bred heifer that sold for 90,000 guineas a couple of months ago. Much is being discussed about the breeding potential of quality beasts.

Low-key representation 

There appeared to be a rather low-key representation of veterinary practices at the show. Unlike other shows, practices appear not to have targeted the Royal Cornwall, which seems unusual, with the emphasis on livestock in general. For any practices considering showing next year it would be worthwhile to visit the South West Dairy Show where there is a significant veterinary practice presence. 

Well done though to XL Vets for their turn out and also to the Cornwall Veterinary Association. Their emphasis was on the content of a Cornish vet’s car, with the back end of a vehicle showing various labelled items and a storybook approach of photographs around the walls of the tent. The car display appeared to be attractive to children. The pictures of heroic surgery, with plates and fixings inserted into limbs, were of particular interest. 

One of the charities supported by the Royal Cornwall this year was The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution, which is dedicated to helping members of the farming community who are suffering hardship. There is a scheme to provide training “to improve the financial stability of low income farming families”. 

The original idea appears to be to enable someone to obtain work outside of the farm to supplement the farm income. 

With the shortage of available labour on many farms, the stockman who can help out with gathering, drenching, weighing, testing or other farm animal support functions, appears to be an opportunity that could be met by training from accredited veterinary practices in support of animal welfare. The charity contact point is via www.rabi.org.uk 

Livestock featured heavily at the show. Too heavily in one case where a bull being paraded butted a fellow competitor over the rail and on top of a lady watching the judging. She appeared not to be too badly hurt in that she stood up but she was taken away by ambulance. 

Some of the livestock was perhaps not exactly as anticipated and the belly dancers attracted an appreciative crowd, being close to the beer tent.