New thinking surrounding lameness control, advice for farmers post-quota, silage management and metabolic disease were up for discussion at the inaugural TotalDairy Expo in Carlisle.
The new conference – sponsored by Elanco and Zinpro, and organised by the team behind the TotalDairy Seminar (previously Large Herd Seminar) – attracted more than 130 delegates to the venue of Carlisle Racecourse on March 6.
Jon Huxley from the University of Nottingham School of Veterinary Medicine and Science advised delegates to “park all you think about lameness” when he presented his new findings on the link between cow body condition and lameness.
According to Prof Huxley, managing dairy cow body condition score loss to peak yield could be one of the main control mechanisms for preventing lameness caused by sole ulcers, white line disease or sole haemorrhage.
Results from UK farm trials found cows that were thin at calving were more likely to become lame in the future due to loss of fat in an essential digital cushion in the foot, which acts as a type of shock absorber.
“As cows lose body condition, they mobilise fat from the digital cushion like any other fat source in the body,” said Prof Huxley.
“Our work shows if you manage the extent and rate of body condition loss, you can minimise the number of cows that will go on to be lame.”
Vet James Husband, from the Evidence Based Veterinary Consultancy and who organised the event, said all producers should be aiming to achieve consistency in body condition across all cows pre-calving.
This would help minimise the risk of cows developing metabolic problems that could impact on health, fertility and production.
“Fat cows are almost programmed to lose condition in early lactation and you also don’t want cows too thin as it can affect fertility,” he said.
Californian farmer Hank van Exel gave his thoughts on how farmers should deal with increasing milk price volatility and the end in milk quota.
He said although the end of quota may encourage some farmers to expand, it was crucial to do so with a full understanding of the market, together with a farm management plan that involved the whole farm team.
“When you lose quota you need to know exactly what you’re going to do,” he said.
“Firstly, you want to find out about price and the market, and that should include managers and employees – they should know where milk is going.”
Videos of the presentations from the TotalDairy Expo will be available at www.totaldairy.com
Tickets are now available for the TotalDairy seminar, which takes place on June 10 and 11 in Gloucestershire. More information can be found at www.totaldairy.com