Vets and farmers must do more to improve dairy cow welfare in the UK, according to the BVA.

Vets and farmers must do more to improve dairy cow welfare in the UK, according to the BVA.

The call comes after careful consideration of major reports and opinions on the welfare of dairy cattle by the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

cowsIn a new policy statement, the BVA outlined the need for veterinary surgeons to take an acathe tive role in educating farmers and promote better welfare, as well as working with farming clients towards a “Herd Welfare Plan” that can be followed alongside the “Farm Health Plan”.

The BVA recognises that some improvements have been made in certain welfare areas, such as longevity, but that issues relating to lameness, mastitis, housing and infectious diseases, such as TB, continue to be of concern.

Veterinary surgeons are well placed to offer help and advice in order to educate farmers on welfare aspects and how they affect herd health, productivity and ultimately, profit, the association believes.

The policy also addresses issues around breeding for certain traits, which should always be discussed with a vet through a breeding plan, and the challenges of housing dairy herds. The BVA believes much can be done to achieve high welfare standards through good housing.

Finally, the BVA supports retailers who reward farmers financially for improving welfare standards for dairy cows and their calves.

Commenting on the new policy statement, Prof Bill Reilly, president of the BVA, said: “Recent reports have highlighted a number of major concerns about the welfare of dairy cows and their calves, and the BVA feels strongly that vets can take a leading role in addressing these issues.

“Lameness, mastitis, inadequate housing and infectious disease can all lead to poor welfare. Not only is this unacceptable for the animals, but it can be bad for the farmer’s business.

“By working together, vets and farmers can and should do more to improve dairy cow welfare through Herd Welfare Plans, breeding plans and improved housing conditions.”

Keith Cutler, president of the BCVA, added: “While the UK enjoys higher standards of dairy cow welfare than many other countries, there are still some issues that need to be tackled.

“Vets and farmers need to work together to address problems.  In my experience most farmers are pleased to discuss issues with their vets and then work in conjunction to improve the health and welfare, and ultimately the productivity and profitability, of their herds.”

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