Dairy cow lameness expert runs courses for Asda DairyLink farmers
Dairy lameness is one of the most serious welfare issues facing the dairy farming industry and I’ve recently been asked what we are doing to improve the lameness of the dairy cows producing milk for Asda. In response, I thought I would write few lines outlining the measure we are taking.
Earlier this year we set up a new hands-on lameness prevention course for Asda DairyLink farmers. The foot care workshops are run by one of the world’s leading dairy cow lameness experts, Roger Blowey and six courses have already been held on our DairyLink members’ farms. The objective of the course is to look at the effectiveness of different management strategies in improving lameness on farms.
Roger begins the course with a talk on hoof structure and reasons for lameness, followed by a foot trimming demonstration and discussion about common problems such as digital dermatitis, solar ulcers, white line and how these can be prevented and treated. After lunch a farm walk takes place where the group identify areas on the farm that may be causing the problems and what can be done to correct them.
We’ve had loads of good feedback from our farmers who have attended the courses, many of them have now changed their foot trimming and foot bathing methods and they are seeing a significant improvement.
As well as the courses we are also doing the following measures to improve dairy cow lameness:
- Discounted rubber matting – we have had a deal in place for our farmers where they are eligible for a 20% discount on rubber matting for their cows – cows standing on rubber is in effect the same as us wearing trainers! In an ideal world all concrete surfaces on farms would be covered in rubber but this is very expensive to do. However, if farmers place the rubber matting in high risk areas such as where cows turn or on slippery surfaces it will significantly reduce lameness and we have many examples where rubber matting has reduced lameness on Asda dairy farms.
- Discounted activity meters – we have also had a discount on activity meters for our dairy farmers. The activity meters monitor the number of steps a cow takes daily and this information is fed back to a computer via an antenna at each milking. A daily report identifies any cows with ‘below average’ activity allowing the farmer to be pro-active and treat cows that may be starting to go lame that may have otherwise not been identified.
- Robust Holsteins – we are encouraging our farmers to breed for a more robust Holstein cow and move away from the high production, extreme type. By breeding less extreme cows with better legs and feet it will reduce the incidence of lameness and improve the longevity of the Asda dairy herd. We have a 20% discount in place on semen from a ‘high welfare’ Holstein bull called Huddlestone Spooky. Spooky produces long-lasting medium-framed cows with low cell counts and great feet, he also produces strong and viable bull calves that our beef farmers want to take on and rear.
- Best practice meetings – we hold 100 best practice meetings a year in conjunction with Kite consultancy, one of the UK’s leading dairy consultants. Farmers discuss areas of their businesses that are performing well and why they believe they are succeeding in this area. They also discuss areas of their businesses that are not performing as well; farmers within the group, along with the consultants then suggest and give examples of ways of improving things. The lameness topic is often discussed and through these discussions, farmers are able to take away practical and proven solutions to solve lameness issues on their farms.
- Health and welfare monitor – we are running a health and welfare monitor scheme with a proportion of our dairy farmers. Since launching the scheme, lameness incidence has decreased by 3% and although this is not a huge reduction, it is a step in the right direction and hopefully this trend will continue as members put into practice what they are learning at the foot care workshops.