JF Cobb and Sons from Dorset are living proof that large herds don’t have higher drug use.
Across the five farms they manage, milking a total of 4,500 cows, antibiotics use averages just 6.6mg/pcu. This compares with a West Country average of 22mg/pcu.
Their two larger units, where cows average 12,500 litres, have the lowest antibiotics usage of all their systems.
Stats from two of the larger herds in the last 12 months
- Three cases of mastitis per 100 cows
- SCC 130,000 cells/ml
- Mobility scores: only 5% of cows recording 2-3
- Metritis and Retained Foetal Membranes running at 3%, while the number of displaced abomasums is just 0.5%
They have also eliminated the use of Critically Important Antibiotics (CIA) in the last 12 months.
Mr Cobb believes having good staff and a strong relationship with vets is key to managing disease and reducing antibiotics use.
“The key thing is to get on top of the business so all your disease is very low.
“We have to be responsible about antibiotics use on our farms. It is not about the system or the scale of the system,” said Mr Cobb.
Below he outlines 14 steps they are taking which has helped them lower drug use:
1. On-going vet training with protocols developed and reviewed with vets
2. Drug use monitored using Dairy Comp software. At the end of each day every herd manager must make sure records are updated
3. Strong focus on breeding “fit for purpose animals” using health traits
4. Appropriate levels of labour during shifts – 60 cows per labour unit
5. Sick cow decision tree (flow chart) to help aid drug decisions
6. Vets control drug stock
7. Vaccinate for BVD, leptospirosis and IBR
8. Clean and comfortable environment with sand beds raked daily and topped up four times weekly with stocking rate kept at 100%
9. Mastitis pathogens cultured on the farm, so specific treatments can be given on the advice of a vet
10. Selective Dry Cow therapy (teat sealant only) given to 90% of the cows. Animals with a SCC above 200,000 cells/ml or that has had a case of mastitis in the last lactation will also be given antibiotics
11. Thorough parlour routine with cows given sufficient teat stimulation prior to milking
12. Cows foot-bathed 4-5 times a week. Never use antibiotics in the foot-bath, only copper sulphate or formalin.
13. Cows mobility scored weekly with independent assessors brought in monthly
14. Cows routinely foot-trimmed at drying off and 100 days into lactation.
What is PCU?
Population correction unit is a measurement developed by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) that is adopted across Europe and is a cross species comparison figure. It standardises the bodyweight of all animals on the farm.