Our milking farmers are telling us how bad the milk cheque is .As business men they will have to cut costs. There are things they cant or really shouldn’t ,unless in desperation. From our point of view as vets, we want to emphasise that ‘Welfare is King’. That still fits with good husbandry.
Apart from government-driven TB testing, we interact with our farmers through the jobs we do – pregnancy scanning, sick cows, sore feet, and vaccinations. I would say to the farmer ,’Don’t stop doing these things’. If you do stop, there are losses associated ,down the line. Now these losses happen to a small percentage of total stock, but it is well enough known now that they exceed in value, almost always, the cost of the prevention.
So the farmer wonders or asks us how little can he get away with, and still cover most loss.
1. Pregnancy Testing.
It is getting better all the time and technology is the answer. With measurement on screen ,we can age most pregnancies to a one or two month period. This helps with the problem of Drying off at the right time. So confine your scanning to 3 or 4 big efforts during the year, Set out the cows likely progress on a chart and rescan her only if she doesn’t stick with the programme. Whilst scanning, record condition scores. Wrong condition must prompt action! There are 2 things that come to mind here. a) how vital it is to keep condition score steady at all stages. b) A good head lock and space behind the cow ( the vet box) increases the speed of scanning, reduces the cost and encourages everyone to do the job because it is easy! ( Have you seen the YouTube video of the Aussie Vet doing 200 cows per hour).
2. Sick Cows.
Sick cows make no money. I think ,a simple principle of one good effort to rectify it is economical and best. You the farmer could have a few quality drugs in your armoury. With properly calculated doses, you make the one good effort. Then you have a little faith in the drugs. If that doesn’t sort it, the problem must be serious. Make a decision to do something. Cull, call, pain relief, sell! Don’t let the case drag.
3. Lame Cows
Lame cows need a bit of time spent on them. Like the ‘Head lock and Vet box’ , an easy lifting foot crush makes all the difference especially if rebandaging is advised. Re bandaging is something I think the farmer needs to do more of. A few things come to mind here. a) Motion score the cows. If you are cutting out the routine foot paring, motion scoring is your next line of defence. b) Professional trimmers are getting more efficient all the time. One thing that scares me is the wickedness of those latest electric rasps. Can I suggest a little more foot inspection and a little less rasping. If it doesn’t need it ,which you have ascertained by motion scoring! – don’t do it.
There are 4 big diseases, BVD, IBR, Lepto, Johnes. You can vaccinate for three of them. You can vaccinate your calves in various ways for pneumonia. It would take about £50 to fully vaccinate every animal yearly .Too dear. A good review of the herd history should suggest what might be afflicting the herd. It really depends what your losses are as to whether it is worthwhile and whether it is worth going to the lab to confirm .
There is an old saying ‘Good nursing will overcome many a bad disease’
I think the common link between these subjects is Condition Score. A cow with condition Score 2.5 at all stages usually has good fertility and isn’t that likely to succumb to disease or metabolic conditions. There is nothing like lameness to take the condition away.
Do not let cows lose condition – That is where the suffering is to be found.
My final point is about good handling facilities. They don’t have to be expensive. A good headlock, a space behind the cow and an easy loading foot lifting crush.
If a job is easily done – It will get done.