2018-09-24  facebooktwitterrss

CHAWG Report Highlights Udder Health, BVD and Johne’s Progress

A state-of-the-nation review of cattle health and welfare has recognised progress in the fights against both Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) and Johne’s Disease, and big advances in udder health and mastitis reduction in dairy cows.

However, the fourth report from the Cattle Health and Welfare Group of GB (CHAWG), released this month, also highlights the threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and the challenges of measuring, collating and reporting meaningful antibiotic usage data across dairy and beef sectors to guide more responsible use.

Chawg Report

The report – issued bi-annually since 2012 – is a wide-ranging appraisal of cattle numbers, systems and practices as well as a summary of performance on welfare measures, spanning lameness, mastitis and fertility to breeding and surveillance.

Assurance schemes are also reviewed and this year, the cow’s environment is included as well as examples of how welfare is being communicated to the general public.

AHDB’s Dr Jenny Gibbons, who co-ordinated the collection of data, explains that this year the report shows how it dovetails with the industry’s newly-updated Dairy Cow Welfare Strategy. “The strategy is included in the appendix, with icons in the text signifying where specific priorities are being addressed. In this way we hope to have a more joined-up approach focused on outcomes,” she says.

“In terms of the items that stand out in the report overall, there have been clear improvements in udder health since 2010 with a year-on-year decline in clinical mastitis incidence. Fewer cows have high somatic cell counts (SCC) and there are more herds with lower milk bulk tank SCCs.

“Big changes have happened in endemic disease as well. Over 700 vets have now gained ‘Accredited Johne’s Veterinary Advisor status’ and 86% of milk supply is from farms which are part of the National Johne’s Disease Management Programme.

“And in the last report in 2016, the industry-led programme to build national BVD free herds in England had just been launched. Since then Gwaredu BVD (Eradicating BVD) has been launched in Wales, and the Scottish BVD eradication scheme – running since 2010 – has proven its impact with 90% of Scottish breeding holdings now having a negative BVD status.”

Dr Gibbons adds that dairy bull calves feature heavily in the report, with figures showing a significant reduction in exported animals in the past 10 years alongside a big rise in the number of calves being reared in the UK for beef. “But 22% of pure dairy bull calves are still estimated to be euthanized on-farm because there is no market for them; we have reconvened a cross-industry group to work to urgently address this issue.”

Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss says she and the other CVOs of Great Britain recognise the value of CHAWG’s continued work in driving cattle health improvements, which have production and cost benefits across the sector.

She particularly highlights the challenges from antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which she calls an issue of ‘global significance’, and the positive impacts of herd health planning.

“Industry leaders have driven a proactive approach in grasping the nettle on AMR and leading on action, through encouraging best practice and facilitating development of systems for collecting data on antibiotic use.

“With the next UK strategy on AMR due for publication early next year, we will continue to work together with CHAWG to ensure all veterinary medicines use in cattle is responsible use – as much as necessary, as little as possible.”

CHAWG chair Tim Brigstocke said the evolution of the report over its four editions showed the value everyone derived from shared data. “These reports have real longevity, and I often see them sat permanently on desks for reference, only to be replaced when the next one is published.

“There is no doubt that information has a real opportunity to drive a change in standards. This makes developments coming down the track in form of the Livestock Information Service and the cattle e-Medicines Book tremendously exciting for the step-change in health and welfare performance they offer.”


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