Vet viewpoint

Paul Rogers, Calweton Vet Centre, Cornwall

* Our practice is in a Biosecurity Intensive Treatment Area (ITA) for TB, an initiative from the Welsh Assembly Government. Participating farmers get a risk assessment for TB leading to a priorities, solutions and targets plan. The Assembly, in partnership with the Royal Vet College, have developed a biosecurity scoring tool consisting of a short questionnaire and a computer spreadsheet to give a score for risk factors on farm.

Scores produced enabled us to focus on known risks and, in some cases, identify new ones. There are a number of risks, including disease status of surrounding herds and the presence of infected badgers at pasture, so expectations need to be realistic. I felt that of my 30 visits, the tool contributed to TB biosecurity awareness and I look forward to the results when the trial is completed next year.

Alastair MacPherson, MacPherson and O’Sullivan, Shrewsbury

* Most people are aware of signs of copper deficiency. However, a lesser known problem is copper poisoning. We have seen two separate incidents over the last few months, where the first presenting sign was either a dead cow, or a cow that died quickly despite treatment. Depression, colic and reduced yield are seen, closely followed by death.

Confirmation is necessary, as nitrate poisoning can show similar signs. There is no treatment for copper poisoning, therefore it is essential to reduce or remove feed containing copper in an attempt to reduce further cases. Several questions need to be asked:

  • What was the reason for copper supplementation in the first place?
  • Was this being fed to the correct target group?
  • Were the levels being fed correct using a good mix of copper compounds?
  • Has anyone actually been monitoring this or has it just become a habit?
  • Steve Borsberry, 608 Vet Group, Solihull

* This year, many experienced shepherds have been caught out by flystrike, which has brought to the fore the meaning of flock and herd health planning. Where we have changed our preventative medicine for next season, plans should be regularly reviewed in the face of risk assessments – they should be dynamic, not static.

Sodden pasture has caused excessive poaching and increased cell counts, resulting in most dairy herds being re-housed. However, on one farm where cows are loose housed, we have instituted our winter milking routine of pre-milk teat dipping as a space per cow problem has resulted in increased occurrence of Strep Uberis mastitis. Farms which do not vaccinate against lungworm should be thinking of strategic worming programmes before it is too late.

Richard Sutcliffe, Bishopton Vet Group, Ripon

* All too often, a farm health plan ends up as a weighty document left gathering dust on the shelf. This was the view of many of the 170 cattle farmers and vets who attended the launch of the Yorkshire Dairy and Beef Farm Health Planning project. Supported by DEFRA, the project aims to change the perceptions about farm health plans and demonstrate practically how farm health planning can improve farm profitability across Yorkshire.

Rather than trying to micro-manage every aspect of animal health on farm, the approach taken is to use a framework which identifies those areas of cow health and productivity which are relevant to each individual farm business.

At the Ripon meeting most farmers who had expressed negative views about health plans, most felt an ongoing practical farm health planning approach with their vet would be relevant and useful to their dairy or beef farm.