Dairy vets and farmers spend more time “fixing broken cows” around calving than they do addressing the leading cause of transition diseases, new research claims.

Survey results
Nationwide survey reveals UK dairy farmers and vets are losing out by being more focused on the consequences of immune suppression, rather than the cause of important transition diseases.

A series of surveys commissioned by Elanco Animal Health found 98% of UK dairy vets and 72% of producers rank mastitis as the leading herd health concern for dairy producers – and almost all vets and three-quarters of farmers correctly identified immune suppression as a core cause of the disease.

Despite this, surveys showed more than two-thirds of vets do not routinely discuss immune suppression with their clients, and the subject barely makes the top 10 list of farmers’ most important herd health concerns.

Cause and effect

While 94% of vets recognise successfully managing the period around calving is vital for herd health, the survey results reveal they do not always associate key transition diseases with the correct cause.

For example, while mastitis is directly related to immune suppression, ketosis, displaced abomasum and ovarian dysfunction are not. However, the latter problems were consistently cited among survey respondents as leading consequences of compromised immunity.

Shift in approach

Alistair Macrae, vet and lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, thinks a shift in approach is needed: “Most vets and dairy producers are aware cows are more vulnerable around calving, but don’t focus on why this is the case.

“There is a real opportunity for vets to get clued up on the true impact of immune suppression at calving to help their clients recognise and address the problem as a key cause of their most problematic dairy health care issues.

“At the moment, we spend far too much time fixing ‘broken cows’ rather than focusing on the cause of the problems.”

  • For the full survey findings and to find out more about helping clients monitor stressors that may lead to immune suppression, visit www.vital90days.co.uk
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