Farm Ireland

Friday 23 March 2018

Do you suffer from Owneritis? A common Irish affliction on farms

Catherine Hurley

Catherine Hurley

Bert Van Niejenhuis, a Dutch vet working for CowSignals says that working on the same farm every day, sometimes you don’t see the problems on your farm anymore, and it can lead to an affliction he calls ‘owneritis’.

This is the case for vets and farmers alike, he said at a recent Roche’s Feed conference.

“Take some time to open your eyes and just look at your cows” said Bert. He said that we can communicate with our cows and understand their needs by reading their body signals. The more comfort we can provide to them the longer they can stay on the farm and the more milk they can produce for us.”

One third Irish cows are lame and 35pc have a wound somewhere and this is accepted as the norm, the Dutch vet has said.

Bert said that if farmers can communicate with their cows and understand their needs they can change their environment accordingly and increase their production.

“Understanding the cows body language is the key to your farms profitability” said Bert. By simply taking the time to watch your cows getting up and down from the cubicle and show you if she is comfortable, he said.

“Rumen fill, walking and the marks on her body will tell you what you need to change in your housing to provide a happier and healthier life for your cows.”

Some 50pc of the bedding for cattle in the Netherlands is dried manure with a dry matter of 33pc, he said. “Providing a soft bedding to your cows will pay back in dividends” said Bert.

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Simply changing the height of the head rail in the cubicle can give your cow more comfort, he said, while watching if she restricted will show you what way to move it.

For the 3-4 months the cows are inside farmers must provide them with the six freedoms of the pasture to optimise their performance, feed, water, light, air, rest and space, he said.

CowSignals was founded by Joep Dreissen, a vet based in the Netherlands, where CowSignals now operate their training centre from.

Practicing as a vet Joep said he saw a lot of farmers working really hard, dealing with problems like ketosis, digital dermatitis and mastitis, the best they could and genuinely caring for the cows.  He said the hardest part was knowing that the problems he saw could often be prevented with just a few changes on farm-level and not being able to really do something about that as a veterinarian.

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