12 December 1997

BSTofficial probes hampered – FAWC

By Tony McDougal

INVESTIGATIONS by government advisers into the effects of the milk boosting hormone bovine somatotropin (BST) on animal welfare have been stifled by manufacturers.

The Farm Animal Welfare Council expressed disappointment that its attempts to obtain information from the manufacturers of BST about welfare effects had been rejected.

Colin Spedding, FAWC chairman, said the council had received a summary of data supplied by the manufacturers to support their licensing applications. That had claimed there were no animal welfare grounds to refuse to grant marketing authorisation for the product.

But access to the supporting raw data had been denied, prompting Sir Colin to rely on current information, which suggested that cattle treated with BST were more likely to have mastitis or lameness and other metabolic disorders.

As a result, FAWC was unable to revise its earlier recommendation that the use of BST was unacceptable on welfare grounds.

Robert Macpherson, chairman of the FAWC dairy cattle welfare report and a farm vet, said the use of BST was not in the interests of animal welfare.

A spokesman for Monsanto, which markets BST in the US, said it had not given FAWC access to detailed information because it was commercially confidential.

Meanwhile, cattle breeding companies have hit back at FAWC claims that they are not doing enough to stem lameness, mastitis and infertility in herds (News, Dec 5). Peter MacLaren, a vet with Semex, said the company – which deals with Canadian genetics – was looking for animals with good feet, legs and udder attachment.

"We want cattle that will last in a dairy herd for a number of years rather than have problems from year one," he said.