Vet Viewpoint

John Cammack, Glenthorne Vet Group, Uttoxeter

Cows send out signals about their health, nutrition and production. The challenge for the dairy farmer is how to interpret these signals and use them to improve the cow’s well-being.

This concept of “cow signals” has been developed by Dutch vets Jan Hulsen and Joep Driessen and is all about interpreting cow’s behaviour, posture and physical characteristics.For example, a lump on a cow’s shoulder says something about the feed barrier, while cows perching in cubicles are a sign of poor cubicle comfort. Once these signals have been identified appropriate remedial action can then be taken, often at little expense.

Steve Trickey, Chapelfields Vet Partnership, Norwich

At the moment we are seeing an increase in the number of displaced abomasums. With most of high yielding cattle housed all year round, being fed “winter rations” and adequate transition diets this increase is unexpected.

We are even seeing DA’s in heifers. Changes in rations due to new silage clamps being used and the re-introduction of maize to diets often lead to unsatisfactory feeding situations which predisposes to DA’s. Our approach to correcting DA’s is to take a good look at the transition period, making sure cows get adequate time on the diet before calving, this will also help a number of other peri-partiurient diseases.

Matthew Berriman, Rosevean Vet Practice, Penzance

The wet summer and autumn has increased lameness problems and we are seeing large numbers of cows with white line disease and foul of the foot. Wet and muddy tracks or gateways seem to be the main cause. We find cows examined as soon as they show signs of lameness and treated with corrective trimming, blocks and antibiotics where indicated, improve far quicker.

Septic arthritis and other complications are often present after a few days which can lead to claw amputations or culling in the worst cases.

As the time for housing approaches many herds are seeing a rise in somatic cell counts plus an increase in clinical mastitis cases. The wet environment is causing cows to become more susceptible to environmental mastitis.

Mike Thorne, Rutland Vet Centre, Rutland

Five left displaced abomasums on four dairy farms in a day made for a busy time operating last week. There are four main reasons for displacements: milk fever toxic conditions like E coli mastitis or toxic metritis lack of rumen fibre of the correct chop length or fat dry cows losing too much condition in the weeks after calving.

Diagnosis usually requires the use of a stethoscope to “ping” for the characteristic sound over the last few ribs on the left side of the cow. There are different surgical techniques to replace stomach and as dairy vets these remain one of our favourite topics of discussion nearly as much as the rugby.