Sustainable growth, tagging and farm skills in focus - Veterinary Practice
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InFocus

Sustainable growth, tagging and farm skills in focus

Richard Gard reports on the Livestock Event held at the NEC last month, at which DEFRA launched a new plan for the British dairy industry.

THE Livestock Event 2014 was
opened by George Eustice, the
parliamentary under-secretary
for DEFRA, who launched a
“sustainable growth
plan” for the British
dairy industry.

Rob Harrison,
farmer and chairman
of the Dairy
Roadmap and
NFU Dairy Board,
encouraged everyone
connected with the industry to read the
document entitled Leading the Way.

A major aim is to eliminate the
trade de cit by producing four billion
extra litres of milk and increasing
the national herd by half a million
cows. Currently there are some 14,000
dairy farmers and 1.8 million cows.
According to the plan, any dairy
system, of any size, run well, can be
pro table and sustainable and growth
is targeted to include small, medium
and large herds.

The Minister was questioned about
progress with bovine TB and indicated
that although licences were originally
issued for four years, a new detailed
licence was required for culling in
Somerset and Gloucester and the
programme will probably recommence
in August/September for a six-week
period.

The independent expert panel
would not be reconvened and the
same level of monitoring by Natural
England and the AHVLA would
not be incorporated. Last year post
mortem examinations were carried
out on 150 badgers and this would not
be repeated. It was not clear whether
farmers who signed up for the four-
year licence would automatically be
included within any new licence.

Also launched at the event was
the second report of the GB Cattle
Health & Welfare Group. The report
is available to download from www.
chawg.org.uk.

This group now encompasses
England, Wales and Scotland and Tim
Brigstocke, the chairman, commented
that bovine TB is not reported on by CHAWG as the disease is being
assessed by other groups.

Greater collaboration is being sought
on industry welfare-related activities
to ensure progress and to identify
priority areas and CHAWG supports
the concept of Animal Health GB and the delivery
of hard evidence for
the success or failure of
welfare initiatives.

Robust surveillance and
monitoring is considered
essential following the
re-arrangements within the AHVLA,
together with health data at the point
of sale of cattle to inform risk-based
trading. Considerable information and
data of interest are contained within
the report.

One of the points brought up during
the Health Planning Seminars at the
event was the difficulty of managing
the on-farm team to recognise and
prevent disease, which may undermine
the accuracy of collected data.

Life after quotas

The business debates included a
presentation and discussion about life
for UK dairy farmers after quotas. The
last time that the UK made quota was
in 2003 but some EU countries have
had their production limited due to
quota restrictions. These countries are
expected to increase production and
look to increase exports to the UK.

The more favourable profitability
with UK milk, however, leads the industry to
see an opportunity now
with increased quality
production. DairyCo produces
monthly analysis of the
facts and figures. The
UK costs of production
are equivalent to Ireland,
Germany, the US and
higher than New Zealand.
An annual survey of 1,000
farmers has indicated an
increasing confidence in milk production. Milk
buyers will be sourcing
supplies that match their
market requirements.
Monthly information by e-mail to practices is
available from datum.info@
dairyco.org.uk.

BVD tagging scheme

It is early days but XLVets is inviting
its own member and other practices
to consider the value of the CHECK
TAG BVD scheme. Stuart Gough,
of the Calweton Veterinary Group
in Cornwall, provided an online
demonstration of the database.

The proposals are that calves
negative to testing of the ear notch have a white tag.
The record of the test for these animals can be
viewed online by anyone
at bvdcheck.co.uk using a
mobile or computer. The
scheme is voluntary for
farmers wanting to identify and remove PIs from the herd.
As more veterinary practices recommend the scheme, so the volume
of white tag calves is expected to
increase. The tags are available from
several suppliers and information is
available from joanne.sharpe@xlvets.co.uk.

Stuart mentioned that the BVD tags
could become part of pre-movement
testing for bovine TB. As his practice
is in a poor bTB area, this is a low-cost
way of adding value for the farmer
with the BVD result available when the
skin test is read on the farm.

NMR has launched the BVD
HerdCheck scheme involving quarterly
milk tests, antibody ELISA and PCR
virus, from samples already collected
and stored, at a cost of £175 per herd
per year.

Farm Skills programme

The XLVets stand appears to be a
permanent feature at the Livestock
Event and the green T-shirts are much
sought after with the green buckets seen
being carried about
the show. There
was a competition
for photographs of
unusual usage of a
bucket and this can
still be entered via
farmskills@xlvets.
co.uk.

The Farm Skills
programme of training is well established and added to this is
Farm Fortress. The aim is for farmers
to develop a risk-based management
system to prevent infectious diseases
being introduced and spreading
through a herd or flock. This topic has
been presented before by vets at many
shows and identifying the specific risks
for any one farm would appear to be a
strong combination of veterinary and
farmer knowledge. Any one of the 10
risk areas highlighted is a major topic
in its own right but vaccination failure
seems to crop up time and time again.

Farmers may have great difficulty
with some of the risk areas, such as
boundaries, watercourses and slurry,
but vets and contractors bringing in
disease appear to be easier to tackle.
Assessing effectiveness of the Fortress
scheme within veterinary practices
may support the future requirements
identified by CHAWG.

Health management awards

It was the seventh year of the Royal
Association of British Dairy Farmers’
Farm Health Management Awards for
veterinary and agricultural students.
Susan Carr (RVC) won the veterinary
category with Emma Stuart (of the
Royal Dick) runner-up. Rebecca
Hodgson (Myerscough) received the winner’s £500 cheque for the
agricultural section and Victoria Read
(Plumpton) the certificate.

John Sumner (award chairman)
commented on the high standard of
the essays that exhibited exceptionally
good research and structure and an impressive analytical
approach. John
Reynolds on behalf
of the sponsor,
Volac, commended
the finalists for their
awareness in adopting
a proactive approach
to farm health.

The remit for the
1,500-word essays
includes the financial
impact of disease, the impact of nutrition on health and
welfare and the environmental effects
of disease, with likely impacts on milk
and meat for human consumption.

A combined effort between the RVC
and Volac has produced a traffic light
promotion to help farmers identify the
early signs of scour and respiratory
disease. The deterioration in calf health
is portrayed in photographs looking at
the eyes, nose and hindquarters.

The message is: “Don’t let ill health
become normal”. The A4 size health
identifiers are available for inclusion
in veterinary practice newsletters with
larger posters for farm offices. Copies are available from Volac on 0800
919808.

Robotic feeder

It is almost impossible to visit all of
the stands and demonstrations at the
event and each of the 17,000 visitors
needs to target particular aspects.

The showing ring, complete with
green sawdust, was again a major
attraction together with the large
machinery and milking machine
displays.

One of the draws was the
demonstration of a robotic feeder,
the Lely Vector automated feeding system. This machine is programmed
to pass down a feed line, return to the
refill station, leave that building and go
elsewhere, continuously if required, for
24 hours.

The farmer has to ensure that a
supply of raw materials is available and
the machine collects the ingredients,
mixes the ration and distributes it
where required. If the cows haven’t
consumed what went before, no more
is added. The machine needs a hard
surface to run on and orders were
being taken at the show.

  • The Livestock Event 2015 will be
    on 1st and 2nd July.

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