Peter Plate is a veterinary surgeon working with farm animals at Endell Veterinary Group in Salisbury in the south of England. M² magazine spoke with Peter about his work on farms, and in particular with dairy herds. He has a long-established interest in organic farms and organic milk production.
In your day-to-day work with dairy farmers, what are the biggest issues they face with regard to animal health, milk production and mastitis control?
“Every farm is different, with a range of strengths and problems. For example, we provide veterinary services to high-yielding Holstein herds, block calving grazing herds and organic herds, and they tend to have different issues. Herd sizes are between 90 and 900 cows. Lameness, mastitis and fertility are still the main topics of conversation, and if bovine TB is added to the list, which adds stress to animals and people and limits culling options on some farms, there is a challenge for everyone involved with the farm. On the other hand we have dairies with excellent health and performance figures, and they are characterized by a total commitment from the whole work team, they have the right genetics for the system and they provide detailed attention to nutrition and management.
Clinical mastitis in herds housed on straw yards can be an issue on many of our farms and conditions can be difficult to control during periods of damp, mild weather conditions. However, some farms with good ventilation and good pre-milking routines can manage their herds well, even in some of our high yielding herds.”
Where does udder health and mastitis come in on the “most important” list that includes nutrition issues, reproductive issues, bovine TB, lameness etc.?
“This depends on the farm situation, the farmer’s priorities and the requirements of the dairy that buys the milk. Udder health is an ongoing issue for most herds, but recent developments do focus the mind more on mastitis prevention, especially with more scrutiny on antibiotic usage, tougher banding for cell counts or Bactoscan results by some buyers and more
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