Sotirios’ Vet Decathlon Blog 4

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Appraising and Assessing

I was struck by the importance of accurate weighing during a routine appraisal on a dairy farm recently. It’s run by a very go ahead farmer, with impressive attention to detail and a holistic approach.

The independent appraisal involves looking at nutrition and the make-up of the ration given to the cows. Part of the process involves accurately assessing the bodyweight of the individual cows. The average for a Holstein is around 700 kilos and the standard taken for measuring antimicrobial use is 400 kilos.

The bodyweight of the cows in this particular dairy herd, with cows ranges from 750 kilos to 950 kilos, is well above the average. The Aberdeen Angus bull used to sweep the in-calf heifers weighed an impressive 1,150 kilos. It was an eye opener, because knowing the precise weight means you can feed the cows more correctly and accurately as you can better judge the nutritional requirements.

This farmer pays close attention to costs, but clearly feeding the cows well, with a grass based diet topped up by straights, pays off.  His cows are on average milking 150 days, with yields of a truly impressive 42 litres.

The Right Fit

That moment when you’re striding out confidently in new boots, ready to take on the world, only to find that they’re too tight…

Suddenly the day becomes difficult, your whole being and attention is focused on the boots, the painful feet. Productivity is diminished and the edge taken off your concentration.

I was reminded of that the other day when carrying out a consultation on Udder Health. It’s a demanding, but very rewarding process, and involves turning up at around 5am if it’s a morning milking.

We plug the equivalent of a microphone into the milking system in the parlour. It records the milking machine’s alternating vacuum signals as the cow is being milked. It’s important to make sure that vacuum levels are within acceptable limits.

If, for whatever reason, there is even momentary excessive vacuum on the cow’s teat, then that might cause a bit of friction to the teat end. Any resulting damage can increase the risk to infection and mastitis.

So it’s all about being proactive, it’s all about being clinical, as in having the right tools to look at the right areas to identify what are the possible causes of damage.

One of the commonest faults is very simple. The liners, the rubber tubes in which the teats will fit, can be too tight.  There are one or two sizes available to fit most cow, but those teat sizes do vary. It’s very like finding the right shoe size and every bit as important.

It’s taken a whole year to find a supplier with the right range of teat sizes and I’m waiting for a delivery following last week’s dynamic test.  We’ll try out the new liners and make sure those cows are being milked comfortably. So watch this space!

There are huge rewards in pinpointing a relatively simple solution to a troublesome problem. It’s not an easy process – firstly getting up at 4.30am, then staying alert and, critically staying out of the operator’s way as he or she is working.

Social distancing makes that even more of an imperative. It’s also a factor in the usual post milking breakfast or, in the case of an afternoon milking, tea. A great way to round things off!

Web Based Veterinary Medicines Course

It’s so important to stay ahead of the curve in the veterinary profession.  This is especially so with animal health when it comes to moving from fire brigade response to a more preventative approach.  A recent web based course focused on reducing antibiotic use, involving delegates from Scotland, the Isle of Lewis and Argyle, and another from South Wales.

The second course was on mobility scoring and so there were three delegates. Two were from Canada and the third was from England. It’s one way of getting around the world in Lockdown!