DairyCo: UK Ahead in EFSA Welfare Challenges

UK - DairyCo has welcomed the latest report on health and welfare of dairy cows in Europe from the European Food Safety Authority, and says the British dairy farming industry is already well-advanced in addressing the issues that have been raised.
calendar icon 24 July 2009
clock icon 3 minute read

Ken Boyns, DairyCo director says: “The health and welfare of dairy cows is of paramount importance to the whole industry. As the levy body for the dairy sector, our work is aimed at helping the industry achieve the best possible animal health and welfare. In particular, the DairyCo issues and image management strategy, developed over the last year, was set up as we recognised the growing concerns both within the industry and among consumers about health and welfare in the dairy cow, and our research and development, genetics work, and knowledge transfer activities can all help farmers tackle these issues.

“For example, lameness is raised by the report and one way of tackling this is to regularly mobility score your cows and take any necessary action on cows identified as needing treatment. The DairyCo mobility score was developed following our own work and with industry involvement, and the score has now been accepted as the industry standard,” continues Mr Boyns. “DairyCo is also working closely with others on the Healthy Feet Project, which aims to involve both vets and farmers in reducing lameness.”

Housing is another area highlighted in the report. “Whatever system of housing is used, we all know that animal health and welfare are of paramount importance to British dairy farmers,” says Mr Boyns. “Best practice is under constant review and DairyCo developed the Dairy Wizard, which amongst other things, includes a comprehensive study on housing the modern dairy cow, and provides dairy farmers with the information needed to improve existing, or build new, housing.”

The recently launched DairyCo Mastitis Control Plan has been shown to reduce incidence of mastitis on farm by at least 20%. “Training events held for vets and consultants have been continually over-subscribed, and we’re investing heavily in the next three years to make sure farmers have access to, and benefit from, use of the Plan,” says Mr Boyns.

The EFSA Panel recommends that the genetic selection of cows should address their resistance to diseases, as well as improved health, fertility and longevity. “In Britain, this is already the case,” says Marco Winters, DairyCo geneticist. “Dairy cows ceased being bred solely for increased yields in the mid 1990s. Over the past 10 years breeding goals have evolved to include resistance to lameness and mastitis and improved longevity and fertility. Furthermore, in 2007, the PLI (Profitable Lifetime Index) managed and produced by DairyCo’s breeding+ with industry involvement, was changed to favour health and welfare traits over production traits, with a ratio of 55:45.”

Mr Boyns concludes: “Information from NADIS shows that as a result of this kind of activity, incidence of lameness is half what it was in 1997 and many forms of mastitis have also been reduced. The long-term decline in fertility levels has also been addressed genetically and although this does not provide a “quick fix”, reproductive performance will improve over time. The UK is among world leaders in breeding for improved animal health and welfare.

“The industry is addressing issues where they exist, and we have already taken a big step forward. We are well placed to continue to raise our standards.”

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