May 23, 2019

Technology Demonstration Farms for mobility improvement

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) is currently establishing a network of Technology Demonstration Farms (TDFs) and applications are being invited from dairy farmers. TDFs will showcase the use of innovative technologies with farms being recruited under three themes, one of which is Improving Cow Mobility. Two farms are being sought to host demonstrations in relation to this important issue on dairy farms.

How many cows with mobility issues do you have?

Reduced mobility in dairy cows can adversely affect several business areas, such as milk production (200 – 600 litres less milk), fertility (20 – 40 days longer to get in calf) and an increased risk of being culled. On average, each case of lameness costs £323 on a typical dairy farm. Research carried out on 57 Northern Ireland dairy farms by AFBI (Hillsborough) showed that on average 33% of cows had mobility issues (range 1.5 – 74.7%). Due to the range between farms, this research suggests that dairy cow mobility could be improved through the adoption of specific practical strategies.

Early detection & effective treatment

The first step in improving cow mobility is detecting lame cows early, using techniques such as regular mobility scoring. Once the cow has been identified early it is important that the treatment is effective. This means that the foot trimmer is appropriately trained, the foot trimming set up is quick and easy to use, and is both safe for you and the animal. The better the set up for trimming, the more likely it is to be carried out.

Footbathing – getting it right

The footbath is one of the most important tools on your farm in terms of controlling infectious lameness diseases, such as digital dermatitis (DD). Research from AFBI (Hillsborough) has shown that in NI almost 80% of farmers surveyed use footbaths to control DD. One interesting finding however, is that almost three quarters of farmers were unaware of the treatment product concentration rates used in the footbath. Key areas within footbathing are footbath design, ensuring the correct calibration and a good protocol in place which is adhered to.

Selective breeding to improve cow mobility

Bulls should be selected for traits to improve mobility and cows with a history of poor mobility should not be used to breed replacements from.

If you are a dairy farmer who has who is successfully implementing these strategies in your herd, you should consider applying to become a Technology Demonstration Farm.

Technology Demonstration Farms will help DAERA’s College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) to deliver the Innovation, Technology, Evaluation, Demonstration Scheme. This new scheme, is part of the NI Rural Development Programme and is funded by DAERA and the European Union.

Further information on the scheme and how to apply can be found here.

Applications close at 4.00pm on Wednesday 5 June 2019.

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