Responsible medicine use is vital for animal health

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After a chilly week, where folk turned on their central heating which caused quite a demand spike in the national grid and a few headaches for oil companies, the weather has suddenly warmed up again.

Friday was a lovely warm day which dried our building site up and made the alterations to the drive a bit more manageable; we are filling in the sides with soil in order to form proper ditches next to the hedges and leave flat verges which can be grassed over and mown.

We all feel much more cheerful again with the change of weather, the heavy rain last week making us quite miserable.

The grass is growing well as a result of that rain and warmer weather will provide autumn grazing for all the young-stock. Tillington has turned green as if someone flicked a switch after the rain.

My niece Alaw, has finished her two months relief milking job, and was at Harper Adams University attending ‘Graduation Day’.

She has done very well and has to decide what she wants to do; but not just yet! We have some research work to carry out at the farm in conjunction with our veterinary practice, and she and Gwenan will be running it. It will involve monitoring and milk recording a group of cows twice a day, seven days a week for a few months, which will keep them both occupied.

Jake my grandson on the other hand has finished his 12 month stint as our tractor driver, feeding the cows and doing all the other tractor jobs since leaving school and is off to Australia for the winter.

He is going to work for Max Jelbart on his very large dairy farm until Christmas and we think we have secured a job in the New Year at Geelong, working for another Nuffield Scholar on a very large operation.

He will fly out to Sydney with Elin our eldest daughter who is over to celebrate her birthday, and then we have our friends Frank and Barb Tyndall who have very kindly arrange to meet his internal flight at Melbourne and take him to their home which is no distance from Max’s farm. It will be so good for him to get away, and having just turned 18 he is the right age.

The cows are certainly happier in the cooler weather and it has been interesting to note as I look at July and August feed, that due to their lack of appetite during the hot weather, more concentrate was consumed as a result.

This was due to them sorting out the ration instead of eating properly, so that when we cleaned out the feed troughs every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, we were throwing away more silage and straw which they didn’t eat.

The result has been that we surprisingly increased milk production by a litre per cow per day, but at a cost. Interestingly at our producers meeting last week, this was the same for other farmers; they either fed more or lost milk during the warm weather.

Given the choice, I would rather hang on to the milk as it is difficult to increase again, and now the cows are eating properly there is less waste and the milk has settled at a litre down.

Over the last year national figures show that due to the terrible weather, not only was milk production down overall, but more feed was fed to produce it and similarly due the wet season more fertilizer was used to produce less of and poorer quality silage. I am very pleased with the silage quality this year, and we should be in for a reasonable winter. It is an average year, but after last year it seems so good!

We cut the maize at Tillington which came off well and the remainder at Milford (not as good) at the weekend, all of which was ready last week but weather prevented harvesting.

The maize at Northchapel needs another week, but looks like a good crop, and I’ll probably cut the third cut of grass silage for the bio-digester at the same time. That will be all the maize for the cows cut and our other maize for the bio-digester is probably three weeks away as it was drilled later and are later varieties.

We have a very good crop up at Ripley on sand, and maybe we will need to cut back on seed rate next year as it looks a bit thick on the ground to me, which has restricted cob size a little.

We have started taking out cow cubicles from our sheds. The bio-digester needs more muck, and that means more straw yards.

The cows will be very happy as our cubicles are a little on the short side now that the cows are getting bigger as a result of our liquid milk contract and different genetics.

Whilst we meticulously manage our cubicles, brushing them off and bedding the mattresses twice a day seven days a week with re-cycled paper waste which is warm and absorbent, the cows in loose yards are undoubtedly more comfortable. The task of operating the brushing and dispensing machine and the dust during that operation will not be missed. Neither will the cost of paper waste and the maintenance bills for the little machine!

We have completed the work of segregating rain water from dirty water, which should make a huge difference to the amount of storage we need, and the cost of spreading dirty water and diluted slurry.

This turned out to be a big job actually, involving cameras being used down the drains in order to work out which one ran where exactly. We had building plans, but as a dairy unit evolves over thirty years or more, it proved difficult to work out exactly where some of the older drains were picked up during more recent building works, and where they subsequently ran to.

I was in Brussels last week and I spent an hour with Commissioner Tonio Borg, who is new and in charge of DG SANCO; that is all aspects related to food and feed safety, health and consumers protection. I was there to discuss the use of medicines on farms, in particular anti-biotic use.

There is huge political pressure in Europe regarding anti-microbial resistance, and some politicians influenced by pressure groups are blaming anti-biotic use on farm. There is no doubt that anti-microbial resistance is a big issue, and that it needs action. There is also plenty of evidence to show that the problem is closely connected to human health and human medicine.

Nevertheless, we need to impress on everyone that the key to human and animal health is responsible use of medicines and as famers we must play our part. Human and animal health are closely connected, and if we have problems on farms we need to treat accordingly with the right medicines; as little as possible and as much as necessary is our mantra. Responsible use on farm will necessitate a look at current practice and working on reduction in use where possible. We must be pro-active in our quest to protect our medicines and convince others that we are using medicines responsibly and prudently.