Livestock 2012: Data Prevents Improvements in Cattle Industry

UK - The first ever ‘State-of-the-Nation' report on cattle health and welfare in Great Britain will be launched today (4 September) at Livestock 2012 by the industry's Cattle Health and Welfare Group (CHAWG).
calendar icon 4 September 2012
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While providing the most complete snapshot to date of health and welfare in both dairy and beef sectors in Great Britain, the report challenges industry and government to ‘get its act together' on data quality and consistency.

The group's chair Tim Brigstocke says the document - which covers subjects from Bovine Viral Diarrhoea to fertility, Johne's Disease and nutrition - heralds significant progress in establishing a baseline for the cattle industry, but highlights a number of urgent issues.

"This is a major step forward and credit is due to the organisations involved," he says, drawing attention to advancements in herd health planning and breeding goals, as well as measures to control Johne's Disease and mastitis, all of which have resulted in tangible improvements in animal health in recent years.

"But there are many areas in which we need to improve, such as mortality in youngstock and lameness in dairy cattle - although it's pleasing that the report highlights recent significant efforts to address these," points out Mr Brigstocke.

"However, data remains the main hurdle to us moving forward as quickly as we'd like, and is the main reason this report has been so long in coming. There are large gaps in availability and consistency of current and geographical data across GB, and there is considerably more information available for dairy cattle than for beef herds."

He says consistency could be improved by creating a standard template when recording the various regional activities; private companies operating in the industry could also pool information pre-competitively.

Furthermore, a number of potential sources of really useful information remain untapped.

"The Cattle Tracing System (CTS) of the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS), the National Fallen Stock Company, and the abattoir data collected by what was the Meat Hygiene Service (now part of the Food Standards Agency) are the three most obvious. We need to resolve this issue over data; until we do so, the industry will struggle to confidently quantify both levels of challenge and improvements in performance."

The report has been welcomed by the chief veterinary officers (CVOs) within Britain. CVO of the UK Nigel Gibbens commented: "Cattle Health and Welfare has perhaps never been more important. Profitability is increasingly hard for cattle keepers to achieve, retailers and consumers are rightly concerned about the care of the animals that produce their food, and efficient production is one of the many things needed to help avoid the worst impacts of climate change."

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