Farmers urged to consider herd health before expansion

Producers need to think about the health status of their own herd, as well as bought in-stock, before considering herd expansion, according to DairyCo vet Karen Lancaster.

Don’t assume that making sure the health status of new cows or heifers is the only priority when considering herd expansion. It’s equally important to be aware of all the problems in your own herd, she told delegates at the Dairy Herd Expansion Conference, Cumbria.

“While it’s essential to work closely with your vet to discuss the health status of animals coming into the herd, remember that unless you take measures to protect them, they are likely to be at risk from your own cows. Farmers often forget that it works both ways,” said Ms Lancaster.

She encouraged those embarking upon herd expansion to take advantage of the health programmes covering mastitis, feet and mobility that were now available through DairyCo.

Cumbria vet Victor Oudhuis of Paragon Vets said dairy cattle coming into a herd should be vaccinated for IBR, leptospirosis and BVD, run through a footbath and initially isolated from the rest of the herd.

Jennifer Picken of Richard Keenan UK – whose family was in the process of major herd expansion in south-west Scotland – said large-scale operations brought new challenges to dairy farms.

“Managing the silage clamp more efficiently when grass is being grabbed daily from a wide face can make a big difference to costs. We estimate that about 15% of grass silage is wasted because of inefficient management of the clamp. For many farms that would mean a massive saving in forage when forage is at a premium in an expanding herd.”

Read more articles from the Dairy Herd Expansion Conference:

People are the real key to growing dairy businesses

Expansion not always solution to upping dairy profits

Moisture management crucial for cow wellbeing

More cows don’t always equal more money

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