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One man’s impressions of a huge event

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01 September 2015, at 1:00am

RICHARD GARD reports from the 2015 Livestock Event at which there was so much to see and do, with sessions covering some of the more pressing issues facing the livestock industry today

THERE is so much at the Livestock Event that everyone will have different impressions of what is on offer. It is simply not possible to attend all the forums, seminars and demonstrations, many with a direct veterinary element.

Tim Brigstocke opened the Farm Health Planning Seminars with an overview of the Cattle Health & Welfare Group findings on dairy cow welfare.

The next strategy report is due in July 2016 but it is important to recognise that “targets” are now outdated in favour of “aspirations”. The dairy sector is looking for continuous improvement, not the idea that a target is reached and the job is done. A range of priorities has been broken down into timescales for progress (short one to two, medium two to four and longer three to five years). Fertility management is considered short-term, for example, with mastitis and lameness in the medium category and improving the “cow environment” long-term.

A full listing of the organisations involved, areas of responsibility and co-ordination is available from www. chawg.org.uk.

Ian McCormack (Galedin vets) and his client Mick Spears gave a warts and all outline of BVD control in the Scottish borders. The task to search out and remove persistently infected (PI) animals from the 400- cow herd needed a combination of knowledgeable testing and farmer determination.

Use of the bulk milk test has now been withdrawn and in Scotland a PI animal cannot be sold. Herds are tested twice a year. The name of the disease has been somewhat confusing because little diarrhoea is seen and bovine viral immune suppression appears more representative.

Detecting the virus and finding a PI is the stimulus for a control initiative and the effort is proving very worthwhile in that the cattle are noticeably more forward and productive.

Awards for essays

William Cranfield, an agriculture student at Plumpton College and Paul Doran, studying at the University of Cambridge vet school, each received the RABDF Farm Health Management Award sponsored by Volac, plus a £500 cash prize.

This annual competition was open to agriculture, livestock and veterinary students. It required applicants to write an essay on proactive farm health management and the benefits it brings to animal health and welfare and farm business profitability, along with various other factors to be considered.

The essays reveal a hard-hitting assessment of the role of veterinary surgeons in farm health planning and that delivery of farm assurance has become an “exercise in bureaucracy” rather than a “dynamic process involving farmers, vets, nutritionists and others”.

Various sources are researched, providing an overview that only 25% of herds engage in herd health planning as intended. One conclusion is that the veterinary profession should take responsibility for the poor uptake and few benefits seen with herd health plans. The approach needs to be “re-invented” and veterinary business models “reworked” to involve technicians and auxiliary staff within practices to assist in the implementation of herd health plans at a reasonable cost.

Healthy start checklist

Fiona McGillivry and Francis Cosgrave offered details about the Healthy Start Checklist, which has been developed to offer better management of the 90 days from 60 days before calving to 30 days afterwards. This transition period for the dairy cow is recognised as increasingly important and has negative impacts for the subsequent lactation if poorly managed.

There has been positive feedback from veterinary surgeons who have tested the early model. All areas that affect the dry cow during the 90-day period are looked into and checked including housing, nutrition, water and “cow factors”. Three aspects for improvement are identified. The checklist is available from Elanco.

Feet and rearing sections

At one end of the large halls was the Healthy Feet section within the Livestock Equipment Zone and far across the other side and outside was the Calf Rearing Demonstration programme. Each of these was worthy of a more extended visit and should be sought out.

Despite all the activity with on-farm monitoring of the ways cows walk and routine preventive hoof trimming there are many details that need to be discussed and understood.

Owen Atkinson emphasised that farm staff need to have confidence that what they do is correct for their herd. Any initiative to improve the lameness situation needs to be farmspecific.

Much has been said and written about improving the longevity of cows’ feet but the message comes through clearly that a full assessment of the situation with a particular herd is needed and then actions taken to overcome any issues.

Within the Animal Health zone was a display by the Dairy Herd Health & Productivity Service from the University of Edinburgh. This has been established for nearly 40 years providing herd health services to veterinary practices and farmers. Further information is available via www.ed.ac.uk/vet/dhhps.

Pneumonia prevention was being highlighted to farmers with considerable lifetime savings showing improved growth rates and milk production.

Emphasis was being placed on colostrum intake and quality and Zoetis was promoting a booklet emphasising the benefits of early intranasal vaccination with Rispoval.

Hipra launched an inactivated vaccine, offering the product as “the first and only vaccine available in the EU” against Histophilus somni and Mannheimia haemolytica (Hiprabovis Somni/Lkt).

Pasteurella detection has advanced with the increasing use of PCR and there is widespread concern about multiple drug resistance. The overall message seems to be to recognise the risk, vaccinate, ensure colostrum intake and manage calves with more care.

Another major event was the promotion of Farm Safety Week. In the past five years, 11% of farmers killed on-farm were livestock related. The message is simply, “Don’t Learn Safety By Accident”.