To understand how the dairy industry, the role of the veterinarian and ultrasound on the farm will change we interviewed Paul Horwood of Westpoint Farm Vets.
With a diploma in Bovine Reproduction, Paul is the managing director of Westpoint, who supply veterinary care to some of the best dairy, beef and sheep farms in the UK. Paul has written for many veterinary publications, his particular interests are in cattle fertility and nutrition.
Well, the dairy industry the last year or two has been under quite a bit of pressure, in terms of milk price, as the commodity price has gone down.
OK, key challenges for a farm vet; obviously in times of decreasing milk price on the farm, we need to continually demonstrate to the farmer that we are worth it. Obviously, we are a cost but, we have to explain to the farmer that we are a value rather than just a cost on his industry.
The farms keep getting bigger and bigger that means more cows and more data that’s out there so, there’s an awful lot of data that a farmer and a farm vet can get hold of but at the moment, that’s quite fragmented. So, that’s in many many different sources, with many many different companies supplying that data, or producing that data, it’s very difficult to pull that all together in one format. So I think the role is for us to move more and more towards being able to control the data, analyse the data, get it in a format we can all deal with.
Also a lot of the tasks that farm vets have perhaps traditionally done are now being taken by herdsman and by laypeople coming in to the industry. There are other power professionals, allied professions that we need to work with so more and more on a farm it’s a team effort dealing with the nutritionist, dealing with the herdsman, the whole milking team, the farmer and even the bank manager to try and work as a team approach.
So it’s not quite the same as one farmer and one farm vet dealing perhaps how we did in the past and obviously when you have a larger farm, you are able to have enough animals and enough numbers to actually look at that data so you can make a change and very quickly analyse whether or not that change has made an improvement or not. Therefore, be able to correct that change, improve that change and fine tune it as you go.
Okay when, on a routine visit, when you’re using ultrasound you don’t have very long in that individual cow so having a way of getting everyone working together and having the information very quickly in front of you so that you can make that decision as to what you need to do to this cow that’s not in calf. So getting to the point where it’s not paper based we’re not relying on our memories of what we did last visit or the visit before but in a way that very quickly we can make a decision based on how far the cow is in calf, previous treatments, what’s going on on the ovaries what’s going on in the uterus, and so the herdsman, the farmer and the vet can all think and act together, very quickly, to decide what we’re going to do with this animal that is in front of us.