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Dairy cattle sessions

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Monday 6 April

‘Strategy’ - the word is used in many ways in business discussions. It seems like a powerful word – but what does it really imply; how does it impact on dairy businesses and those that provide services to dairy farms? This presentation will discuss the hard work of getting to what is really important – and how to help business owners ‘see through the fog of the future’…to the most appropriate paths and steps ahead.

This presentation will provide a background to the more recent Australian experience of managing mycoplasma infections in dairy cattle. In contrast to New Zealand Australia has not attempted to eradicate the disease. In this presentation the disease management and prevention strategies will be discussed along with reflection on the outcome for infected herds.

Incursion management by definition is an exercise in managing the unknown. NZ has the benefit of a complete sea border to significantly limit incursions, but this also leaves us more susceptible. On the back of the recent M Bovis incursion this presentation will discuss the real-life implications of disease eradication and management policies, and offer insights into future considerations.

The majority of treatment decisions on dairy farms are undertaken by herd owners and their staff. Hence to effectively reduce antimicrobial usage, engagement of herd owners and their staff is vital. This presentation will consider the impact and effectiveness of two different approaches to communicating reduction strategies to decision makers- from trained veterinarians and from facilitated farmers. It will also consider key strengths and weaknesses with each approach.

Salmonella are ubiquitous in livestock populations to a greater or lesser extent. Salmonellosis reflects one possible host, pathogen, environment interaction outcome. Herd and or flock management may either contribute to or reduce the risk of pathogen exposure resulting in disease. This presentation will examine risk factors for disease and how stock management can mitigate these risks.


Tuesday 7 April

Farm business consultations are far different from individual animal consultations – and they have the power to have a far greater impact on animal health and conditions. The skills required to run them well are a level higher too – and can be learnt and developed. This presentation will strive to harness evidence-based skills from other fields of consulting and bring them to bear on dairy farm consulting practice: “Leading the Dance”.

Mastitis is one of the major health problems on most dairy farms. There are various ways that are used by farmers and veterinarians to choose how to treat mastitis. Most of us would like to think we make decisions that are evidence-based, but sometimes that evidence is unavailable or of dubious quality. Even where evidence is lacking, we can recognize rational or irrational choices.

Lameness remains at unacceptably high levels amongst the world’s dairy cows, has profound effects on animal health and welfare and undermines farm performance. Recent advances in our understanding of the aetiopathogensis of claw horn disease, alongside randomised controlled treatment studies have led to significant advances in our approach to therapy. This session will review recent developments in our understanding of the most appropriate treatment options for claw horn disease in dairy cattle.

Understanding a lameness problem begins with identifying the lesions causing the lameness and their risk factors. These risks include physical factors of walkway and milking parlour design that might damage the claw or cause poor cow-flow and result in impatient handling - people factors. Another possible risk is poor claw conformation, a cow factor. This paper looks at data from New Zealand studies, new individual cow data and records from over 70 herd investigations.

Pictures of pretty scenes with cows eating grass are often associated with good animal welfare. However, beautiful scenery can be misleading, and there are animal welfare challenges associated with pasture-based farming. Humans make sacrifices to achieve outcomes that make them feel good. Whilst it may seem obvious that cows like the taste of grass, it is important that we also look at the animal welfare “sacrifices” they make in order to do so.

Vets making an individual judgment about whether a particular finding on bull examination should preclude its use takes on a degree of risk – particularly in circumstances where a client might seek an alternative opinion from a different veterinarian down the track, when things have not gone well. This risk can be reduced significantly by having a set of industry accepted standards.

Summary to come.


Wednesday 8 April

Q: What do ‘Advisors’ do? A: They give advice. The problem is – people are advised to do many things each day and they only actually do some of them. To make things worse, advice is often given ‘as a gift’, but it is not received like a gift – it can disempower, irritate and have the opposite effect. This presentation is about moving from advice-giving - to being an agent of change in modern dairy-farm businesses, using evidence-based techniques and skills.

Over recent years there has been a paradigm shift in thinking regarding the feeding of calves from birth to weaning. This has seen an increased focus on pre-weaning growth and its association with future productivity and longevity. This presentation will review different feeding strategies, problems that may be encountered and strategies that may be applied to avoid these problems to achieve good growth and health outcomes.

Managing failure of passive transfer is very challenging to improve in systems where calves are left with their dam for 24 hours or more. In New Zealand, where 70% of farms pick up calves only once daily, it is likely that the biggest contributor to whether they have FPT or not is dependent on what has happened out in the paddock. This study aimed to look at what is happening out in the calving paddocks on New Zealand dairy farms and whether the success or failure of feeding from the dam is influenced by management factors that we can alter. This presentation summarises the results from half way through the study on four farms investigated in 2019.

The most recent secular trends in dairy cow reproductive performance internationally indicate that the decline apparent over the last four decades has halted and in some dairy industries performance has improved both genetically and phenotypically. Reversal of the decline has been/will be achieved by a blended response of short, medium and long-term management and genetic selection strategies. This paper deals with how best to implement these strategies globally, nationally and at farm-level.

The use of sex-sorted semen can increase the number of replacement heifers, improve genetics and reduce the number of unwanted male bobby calves in dairy herds but its uptake has been limited by lower conception rates and higher costs. Careful case selection and use of particular synchrony programs can be used to improve outcomes and economics.

Investigation of bovine abortion and stillbirth is a challenge. This paper addresses this issue with a view to practitioner-led improvements in diagnostic rates. The focus is on clear case definitions, (under-) reporting of losses and problem herd investigations. Specifically, emphasis is placed on a simple 3-step investigative standard operating procedure (SOP) involving herd anamnesis, examination of the aborted/stillbirth animals and cohorts and examination of the conceptus.

Summary to come.