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21-12-2015 - Breeding For Function Not Fashion Will Form Focus At TotalDairy Expo 2016

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Holstein UKs Iwan Thomas will be highlighting the importance of breeding the functional cow you need, rather than the fashionable cow you think you want, at TotalDairy Expo in 2016.
Holstein UK are Gold sponsors of the one day technical conference, which takes place on Friday 11 March 2016 at The Shepherds Conference Centre in Carlisle, and is run in conjunction with the UK Dairy Expo.
TotalDairy Expo will include presentations from five expert speakers covering a range of topics, including mastitis, feeding, foot health, fertility and breeding. Holstein UK members can also receive a 10% discount off tickets.
Located just next to Borderway Mart, the event is ideally located to pop across to see the showing classes at UK Dairy Expo, some of which start on the Friday afternoon.
During his presentation at TotalDairy Expo, Iwan will be discussing the importance of correctively mating cows to meet individual farm requirements, rather than choosing a bull because he is at the top of the rankings.
Theres potential to make bigger strides in longevity and lifetime yield by correctively matingAs a starting point you need to know your aims and what youve got, he says.
He will explain how both commercial and pedigree producers can benefit from measuring the physical structure of their animals and mating accordingly. This will be illustrated with findings from HUK data analysis which have clearly identified key parameters influencing cow longevity.

Evidence surrounding the benefits of selective dry cow therapy, together with practical tips on how to do it will be presented by vet James Breen from Nottingham Vet School at TotalDairy Expo 2016.

Global pressure for farmers to use antibiotics responsibly means a growing number of processors and supermarkets are demanding farmers move away from blanket use of antibiotics at drying off. Dr Breen says research strongly shows there are big benefits to be had from adopting this targeted approach at drying off.

“Recent UK research shows if a cow is under 200,000cells/ml for the three months prior to drying off and receives an antibiotic and sealant at drying off, she is 12 times more likely to develop clinical mastitis due to E. coli in the first 100 days of lactation versus using a sealant alone,” he says. 

As part of his presentation, Dr Breen will go into detail on research findings and why such results may have been seen. Other research has focused on the normal, 'stable' population of bugs in the udder and one suggestion is that use of antibiotics in low cell count cows make the udder more susceptible to infection. 

However, research also highlights the importance of using antibiotics in cows that need it, such as those cows likely to be infected at the end of lactation. For example, treating high cell count cows with antibiotics and sealant at drying off can increase the risk of that animal being free of major pathogens at calving by 1.5 times.

Dr Breen will be drawing on several farmer case studies to illustrate how selective dry cow therapy can be implemented on farm and the benefits seen by farmers already adopting it.

“I’ll be challenging the audience on how they can deal with their herd as there’s a strong argument that all herds - not just the ones pushed to do it - should be thinking about selective dry cow therapy,” he says.


Vet and independent consultant, John Cook will be highlighting how farmers can benefit from using data and computer software to understand and improve upon weaknesses in their fertility management routine.

“At the current milk price, production needs to be efficient and milk production ultimately comes from fertility. By using computer software you can track whether key groups of at risk cows are hitting certain fertility goals,” he says.

Although pregnancy rate is vitally important, Mr Cook believes one of the most important indicators to look at is the proportion of cows inseminated by 80 days in milk.

“80% of the variation in reproductive performance is explained by the number of days in milk that a cow is inseminated. By delaying getting her back in calf, you are extending the period it takes her to get back to peak production, which ultimately impacts on economics,” he explains.

As part of his presentation, Mr Cook will be using data from UK dairy farms to illustrate the affect not hitting service targets has on the bottom line. He says the cost of every ‘day open’ over 80 days in milk will vary on a farm by farm basis, but can range from £1.20 a cow a day on systems where reproductive management is good, up to about £7.00 a cow a day when management is poorer.

“To hit targets you’ve got to use fertility monitoring tools, together with an appropriate level of (hormonal) intervention. At the current milk price, you can’t afford not to,” he stresses.


The need to adjust foot trimming regime to reflect farm environment and individual cow requirements will be up for discussion as part of a foot trimming panel discussion at TotalDairy Expo in March.

Chaired by Dr Nick Bell from the Royal Veterinary College, the interactive session will encourage questions from the audience on trimming technique and will aim to address the topic of over trimming.

Dr Bell explains: “We held a similar workshop at TotalDairy Seminar last year and asked the audience how many had seen a sound cow develop lameness after trimming. It was horrifying to hear how many were going lame - there shouldn’t be new cases after trimming. If this is happening, you need to ask why and how to modify your trimming approach.”

Dr Bell says much of this new lameness is due to people inadvertently over trimming certain cows. These animals are usually older cows with pedal bone changes. This then results in thin soles, leading to bruising and necrotic lesions which ultimately negatively impact on production, health and fertility.

“Regular, preventative trimming should help reduce sole ulcers, however the benefit of regular trimming can often be masked by over-zealous trimming,” he says.

This can be a particular issue on cows with curled toes where it is difficult to judge toe length. Together with foot trimmers, Steve Bradbury, David Rowe and Tim Carter, Dr Bell will look to explain how farmers should assess individual cow foot anatomy to adapt trimming strategy accordingly. 

“For many farmers, it may be that a small number of cows need a slightly different approach. Rather than just trimming to 7.5cm as standard, it’s important to trim to the optimal dimensions for an individual cow’s anatomy. We’ll explore how we assess optimal,” he explains.

As part of the presentation, the panel of trimmers will share their thoughts on trimming technique and use videos to illustrate different trimming scenarios. They will also talk about treatment options for different claw lesions and the role of the vet and trimmer in addressing specific issues. 

“I’d like challenges and questions from the audience so that the session is a bit like Dimbleby’s Question Time,” adds Dr Bell.

Find out more about TotalDairyExpo and book tickets
Holstein UK members can also get a 10% discount on tickets by using code HOLUK10.
Follow @TotalDairy on Twitter.

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