A DOWNER cow is not just a welfare issue but a drain on resources, so producer Steve Cradock is using a written protocol to decide which cows are worth helping.

 “We persevere up to a point, as long as the cow isn”t distressed. When a cow is trying to get up we lift her as the longer she is down, the greater the damage,” says Mr Cradock, who runs a 165-cow herd near Evercreech, Somerset.

 “But when she can”t make a good effort on her own, that”s a sign. When we don”t see a result after more than five days, we call it a day.”

He believes a young downer cow is worth spending time and money on, so he perseveres with treatment. However, he wants to sum up the problem and likely outcome before he starts with older animals.

 The written protocol in his herd health plan is a start and he has also taken steps to prevent milk fever by altering the dry cow ration. “When we do get a case, we find that following the treatment using warm calcium, cows get up pretty quickly.”

Occasionally cows slip in the yard, so he rolls them onto a net and puts them in a paddock. One recent case became stuck in cubicles and despite leaving her in a loose yard, lifting her several times she still couldn”t stand. “She had a swelling on the top of her spine so we had to have a ticket for her.”

 “Having a downer cow is a very time-consuming job. We need to feed and water them three times a day. If they haven”t moved, we roll them over to sit them on the other leg to avoid muscle and nerve damage.”