8 March 1996

Two views on welfare

VETS and farmers have sharply different priorities over animal welfare concerns, according to a survey carried out at the Brooksby College Dairy conference, Leicestershire.

Nearly twice as many farmers pinpointed lameness as the major welfare concern, then mastitis, transport, housing and handling.

Vets at the Royal Veterinary College, however, argued that poor calving was the single most important dairy welfare factor.

They also singled out calf weaning and mortality, bullying and introduction of heifers to the herd as important welfare concerns, along with lameness and mastitis.

Tony Andrews of the Royal Veterinary College, argued that too many calves were dying shortly after birth.

"Only 90 calves are reared successfully for every 100 cows pregnant over seven months. We should be getting 96 calves for every 100 cows, and only 1% of deaths after the first day."

Not taken seriously

Dr Andrews argued dairy farmers did not take calf losses seriously enough. "Most disease costs are not seen as being so expensive by the farmer because they result in the reduced performance and so are seen as profit not made, rather than as a direct cost.