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£200 in poorer systems. He also points out that a well-reared heifer is likely to have a longer herdlife and so be more profi table. Neil has recently taken on the role of Health Manager to combat

the growing problems associated with biosecurity in clients’ herds and assist where there are new breakdowns. TB has been increasing in frequency in the south of the practice area, and a recent bugbear has emerged in the form of Mycoplasma, a genus of bacteria that lack a cell wall and so are unaffected by many common antibiotics. Infection often results in respiratory disease and infected animals also exhibit signs of severe ear ache. Calfhood infections may lead to defective udder development and mastitis after calving.

A growing issue for the practice has been fertility and around 80 of the 200 client herds are now having regular fertility visits. These visits are an ideal point of contact with the cow and are purposely kept separate from other routine visits so that the advisory element can be fully dealt with. Rob describes fertility as an area where co-operation with nutritionists is vital and only by working together can progress be made where there is a fertility problem. He also recognises that it is essential to deliver advice that is appropriate to the client and that there is no ‘one size fi ts all’ approach.

Pedigree herds LEFT From left-

right: Rob George, Brian Wilson, Neil Howie and Tim Briggs at the new large animal unit.

Classifi cation is a service Rob regards highly, as he says it encourages breeders to look at their cows critically and more farmers should become involved. Warming to the theme, he goes on to say that fi nancial pressure is almost always the root of all problems, although pedigree breeders are often their own worst enemies as they are inclined to keep unprofi table cows for the wrong reasons, such as back pedigree or the lack of a heifer calf. He feels that evaluation systems are not measuring survivability accurately and that even the most


Pages from

the Cow Watch report.

were one of the fi rst practices to operate to correct displaced abomasums, in the approach to preventative care and even in the recruitment of specialist staff, as the majority of the farm team come from a farming background. Recruitment is essential to provide a succession in the practice, which is happy to take on recent graduates.

In terms of preventing disease, Neil describes an animal that becomes ill as being an indicator of a defective system rather than just a recipient for drugs. Indeed, he feels the ideal scenario would be for vets to be able to avoid prescribing any drugs at all because the systems their clients operate meant that good animal health made treatment unnecessary. Neil has been doing a lot of work on the cost of heifer rearing. His research, which is backed up by similar work done elsewhere, suggests that the cost of rearing a Holstein heifer to calve at two-years-old should be in the region of £1200. As fresh calved heifers are currently commanding around £1800, this means there is a £600 advantage in rearing a healthy replacement. The poorer this rearing is, the higher the replacement cost and the lower the advantage becomes; Neil suggests this fi gure may drop beneath

RIGHT Calf with septic

arthritis of approxi- mately 2 weeks duration. Note complete instabil- ity of intercarpal joint, fractures within and a large gas shadow can be seen. This carries a hopeless prog- nosis and the calf was subsequently euthanased.

commercially-minded farmers tend to like their best looking cows most. Neil responds that lifetime production is the best guide to whether a farmer is breeding the correct type of cow and that the current national average of around 25,000 kg is ‘pathetic’.


An example of the initiative shown by NVG to assist their clients is the recent launch of Cow Watch, a service that picks up information collected by milk recording services and translates it into an easy to understand report. The service was developed by Stuart Russell, one


CellWatch -

Dry Cow Cells [

100% HiLo HiHi LoHi

Cure % Protect % HiHi %

LoLo Success % Heifer Transition (and Bought-in Cow Transition) Clean Lo Fresh

Calved New

Hi (Pre)Chronic [Less Than 4 recordings this lactation]

Fresh Hi New (Pre)Chronic

Lactation Cells [Cows > 1 recording, Heifers & New Cows > 4 Recordings]

Chronic %

PreChronic %

New + Once %

Intermitten t %

P OnceNew

Intermittent ChronicRecovered

reChronic PreChronic Clean

Uninfected %

Uninfected %

Whole Herd Cell Count

Dry Period New Infection

Lactation Period New Infection

8 Full Report Bloggs, Yew Tree Copyright © 2009 & 2010 by Nantwich Veterinary Group, Cheshire, UK. All rights Reserved. New + Once 2% 6% 81% 177

11% 6%

Intermittent 3% Chronic 8% 32 Heifers, 0% 3% 4% LoHi%


Bloggs, Yew Tree 37

Cows 77% 79% 3 Cows

5 Cows 8%

14% 78% 7 Fresh

EnergyWatch Your Results: Limits: What it Means:

Number of cows less than 60 days calved: Average Kg protein produced per day:


· Some negative energy balance is expected in the first 60 days, but if your graph is red, your peak cows are struggling for energy. They are either not able to eat enough (most likely), their rumens are not functioning correctly (quite likely), or they don't have enough energy in the diet (unlikely on most farms).

Consequences: Questions:

· Your cows will milk off their backs and will be more prone to infections. Fertility may be reduced (see Fertility Watch) and LDAs may be more likely. · Are your dry cows too fat? - a fat cow eats less, so will be thinner at 60 days than a cow that was skinny at calving.

· Are your dry cows eating enough? - Aim for 14-15Kg dry matter to get a nice big rumen. · Do your fresh cows have enough space to feed - you need at least 0.7m feed face per cow to maximise dry matter intake.

· Do your cows have enough food? - You should be aiming to scrape away around 5% of what is fed - You would only eat twigs if you were starving, so the cows are doing the same! · Are your feed troughs properly clean? - any mouldy food or heating will drastically reduce dry matter intakes.


· Do your troughs have a nice smooth bright surface? Rough surfaces (such as concrete!) decrease intakes significantly. You could consider painting the floor with epoxy paint. · Monitor condition scores of all groups. Consider doing this at routine visits.

· When did you last analyse your silage? Analysis can change from week to week. At the very least, you could monitor dry matter, which we may be able to do for you.


Av. Kg Protein/day

Average protein production in Kg per day for the cows in their first 60 days of lactation. 73

1.17 Aim For: 1.1 Kg +



[RIGHT] If the gap between the herd average and the 40-100 DIM is getting bigger, your peak cows are struggling for energy. The blue shaded area will always have a drop around 60 days ago - cows calved then are at peak and will also have the lowest fertility. If there is a second dip, then the cows which calved in that month struggled and have not yet recovered - expect poor fertility from these too. Is there a reason why? This graph may explain where low bulk milk protein % are coming from - it's not always the fresh cows!

08-Jun-10 Full Report

EnergyWatch - Protein % 4.0%

3.5% 3.0% 2.5%

Protein this Month by Month Calved Herd Average Cows 40 - 100 DIM


Bloggs, Yew Tree Copyright © 2009 & 2010 by Nantwich Veterinary Group, Cheshire, UK. All rights Reserved.

Av. kg Protein/day Jun-09 Jul-09 Aug-09 Sep-09 Protein % Jul-09

Aug-09 Sep-09 Oct-09

Nov-09 Dec-09 Jan-10 Feb-10 Mar-10 Apr-10 May-10 Jun-10

Nov-09 Dec-09 Jan-10 Feb-10 Mar-10 Apr-10 May-10 Jun-10 Oct-09


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