Farmer Focus: Hoping safe bull pens assist lameness

I have invested in new bull pens this year. We have had a couple of bulls over the past few years go lame at the crucial moment. 

With such a tight bulling period we need to invest more in their foot health. 

They all get an MoT annually, but lameness is difficult to pick up. So we’ve invested in their housing for the health and safety of both the bulls and those working with them. 

The pens can be shut off front to back or back to front, penning the bull so it is safe to muck out and bed. A rear escape route has also been installed, as well as self-locking yokes for safe treatment.

See also: Bulls with good locomotion scores cut lameness

Poultry welfare lessons

Claire has been sorting out our bird out/bird in dates and clean-down team for our hens. It has been interesting comparing the welfare and assurance schemes of the hens to the more familiar schemes that are in place for cattle and sheep. 

In order for eggs to be RSPCA assured, the whole chain has to follow that assurance scheme; hatchery, rearer, laying farm, catching team and transport.

From 1 January 2019, abattoirs will also need to be assured. The whole chain is in place. 

I raised this at an NFU meeting I was at this week. The meeting brought up the issue of whole-life assurance again. 

British welfare matters more than ever

UK animal health and welfare standards are the best in the world, but other countries are raising their game. 

With grass-fed beef in South America available at one-third of the price of ours, we certainly wouldn’t want to compete on price. 

They are raising their standards and I have heard that some of their finishing units and abattoirs match our standards. Whole-life assurance may have its challenges, but as a sector we need to realise that standing still won’t keep us at the top of the market place.  

Our audit trail may become our unique selling point. Let’s up our game and get behind “our” Red Tractor – it could be our saviour after Brexit.

Simon Bainbridge runs a 650ha upland organic farm with 160 suckler cows, 1,500 breeding ewes and 12,000 organic laying hens with his wife, Claire and his parents in Northumberland  Healthy, maternal livestock and quality feed is a priority.