Welcome to the latest issue of the RH&W newsletter.
It has been a busy month for the farming sector across the UK with high temperatures and heat waves ensuring the silage and haylage season has been in full swing. However, it’s also important during high temperatures to consider the health and welfare of our livestock, in particular transporting them during these conditions. This is a topic we have covered in this month’s newsletter edition, with some advice below.
This month has also proven a busy one for RH&W with the pivotal launch of our new 5-year UK Dairy Cattle Welfare Strategy. Held at the beginning of the month, we have seen enormous levels of support across the supply chain which is fantastic, as it’s this level of engagement and collaboration that will ensure we move the dial on welfare as an industry. This strategy is particularly special as it is the first time all four devolved nations have committed to a joint welfare strategy.
While we continue to plan and execute the next steps of implementing the UK Dairy Cattle Strategy, RH&W have continued the roll out of this welfare workstream, by working closely with stakeholders in the sheep sector to continue plans for the UK Sheep Welfare Strategy which we will be looking to launch later in the year.
With best wishes,
Gwyn Jones, Interim Chair
Successful launch for new welfare strategy
The new UK Dairy Cattle Welfare Strategy for 2023-2028 was successfully launched to media and industry stakeholders at the start of this month.
The strategy, which was developed by industry stakeholders across the UK’s four nations, has been launched to help the industry show progress in cattle welfare over the next five years.
It focuses on the following six key areas:
- Thriving cows – ensuring all dairy animals are bred, reared and cared for to thrive in all systems
- Healthy feet – ensuring a proactive lameness management plan is in place on every UK dairy farm
- Comfortable cows – maximising cow comfort in housing and at pasture
- Appropriately nourished cows – ensuring a healthy body condition throughout the year
- Healthy udders – continued improvements to udder health to reduce cases of mastitis
- Positive welfare – moving towards ‘positive welfare’ by providing an environment that allows animals to exhibit normal behaviours such as curiosity or play
RH&W interim chair, Gwyn Jones, praised a successful launch and called for all stakeholders to take responsibility for delivering action over the coming year.
“The wider industry from government officials and assurance scheme providers to dairy farmers and processors, must wherever possible, work together to support progress on the strategy and support a centralised collection of existing data to demonstrate industry progress,” he added.
The UK Dairy Cattle Welfare Strategy was coordinated by RH&W who are facilitating stakeholders across the ruminant industry to create welfare strategies for the whole UK ruminant sector – sheep and beef cattle ones are in progress.
If you are not yet involved, please get in contact with us on RuminantHW@ahdb.org.uk.
Increased risk of staggers
There is an increased risk of staggers in cattle and sheep following a wet spring, warns an article in the Scottish Farmer.
According to the article, the increased staggers risk is caused by the early grass growth curve being above average due to the wet spring which may lead to it being low in dry matter.
This can result in some nutrient levels being diluted – in particular, magnesium – and it can be difficult for animals to eat sufficient levels.
The wet spring means the typical grass staggers window has been extended, with problems likely to last well into June.
The Farm Advisory Service recommend good management of nutrition and stress to support in preventing grass staggers and to follow these tips.
- Ensure cows aren’t in a negative energy balance by providing constant high quality feed
- If the grass is shorter than six centimetres, it is vital to supplement feed and magnesium levels with additional forage and minerals
- Watch for behaviour that results in periods of not eating such as standing around the gate or sheltering for long stretches of time
- Leave potassium fertiliser spreading until later in the year
Transporting livestock in hot weather
With the current spell of hot weather and the summer months upon us NFU is reminding farmers and producers of best practice and legal requirements of transporting livestock during hot weather.
The legal requirements are condensed into EU law 1/2005, the protection of animals during transport, Welfare of Animals Transport Order 2006 (England) and Welfare of Animals (Transport) (Wales) Order 2007.
In practical terms these laws mean that livestock must not be transported in temperatures higher than 30 degrees Celsius. These requirements cancel out the legal responsibilities of EU laws for upper limit temperatures in correlation to ventilation systems.
In addition to the legal requirements NFU recommend all farmers and producers consider the following points.
- Short and steady – Journeys should stay as short as possible with a well-planned route and consideration of potential delays or change in weather conditions.
- Airflow – Transport with passive ventilations, such as trailers with flaps, are only effective when in motion. It is recommended to continuously move wherever possible when stock are in transit. In addition, reduce overall stoking density to increase room for movement of fresh, cool air.
- Fit for travel – Make sure that any livestock being transported is fit to do so. Heavily pregnant, very young or ill animals should not be transported.
- Time of travel – Try to avoid the times of the day that temperatures are highest. This is typically between mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
- Extra considerations – Assess the condition of the livestock being transported and if they require additional amends to be made to transport such as animals with a thick coat or full fleece or pregnant. In these instances, stocking density may need to be reduced or delaying travel altogether.
These points are in addition to the legal requirements that must be followed to ensure animals are fit to travel.
Scottish government authorise emergency use of cobalt
Emergency authorisation for sheep and cattle farmers across Scotland to use cobalt salts within feed will come into force from 30 June.
The Scottish government has made the decision to authorise four cobalt salts to be used within livestock feed to reduce the risks of cobalt deficiency. Deficiencies in cobalt can be incredibly harmful to livestock and sheep in particular, with stunted growth, anaemia, emaciation and debilitation as some of the effects.
NFU Scotland estimates that over 60 percent of Scottish land is at significant risk of being deficient in cobalt, as a result supplementing feed with cobalt for livestock in these areas is very important.
As a result of this statistic, NFU Scotland reached out to Scottish government asking for an extended authorisation of cobalt use in feed due to the threat to health and welfare of livestock.
Find out more here around the authorisation of cobalt across Scotland.
Securing the future of animal health in Wales
At a recent animal health conference held by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) in Llandrindod Wells, the future of animal health planning and the impacts of it on vets, farmers and the environment was a hot topic during discussions.
The conference was well attended by industry stakeholders, veterinary surgeons and Wales’s chief and deputy chief veterinary officers, with a dedicated focused on Stoc+, a project funded by both Welsh and EU governments, for assessing current and advancing future livestock productivity by improving animal health planning.
Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, Dr Gavin Watkins said: “Stoc+ has been a successful project between farmers and vets on many levels. Welsh Government is delighted that HCC has been able to engage with 360 farms in the 5-year project timescale.
“This offers the industry real evidence baselines for us to progress and plan Wales’ animal health strategies for the future.”
The project included a number of studies into sheep lameness, fertility and cost benefit analysis. To learn more about the Stoc+ project and the results from the last five years here.
Call for reauthorisation of herbicide to control bracken outbreaks
NFU Scotland and hill farmers across the country have issued a desperate plea to the government to allow the use of Asulox (asulam), a selective herbicide used for managing bracken
This call for support has occurred as a result of significantly increased tick threat across the UK which could result in animals being at risk of serious illness.
Brian Walker, a hill farmer and NFU Scotland member says: “I have never seen more cows coming off the hill than this spring covered in ticks.”
“The warmer weather and dense amount of dead bracken over the winter months has created the prime environment for them to breed over the winter months,” explains Mr Walker.
If not treated following tick contamination, livestock could be at risk of serious disease. Tick bites cause louping ill in sheep and Redwater disease in cattle, both of which are dangerous diseases.
Bracken is an aggressive and highly invasive weed and typically grows across steep and hilly terrain making it challenging to fully uproot without the assistance of chemicals.
Find out more here.
Are low-methane sheep the future?
For the first time in the UK a sheep farm, in Hertfordshire, has recorded methane emission levels produced by a flock of sheep. Farmers Weekly reported that by using portable accumulation chambers the results show that on average the sheep were producing 20g/day of methane and 1.2kg/day of carbon dioxide.
Despite the trial being done across a flock of New Zealand Romney’s all on a grass-only diet, there was significant variation in figures seen between the 120 yearlings tracked.
Dr Nicola Lambe, a sheep geneticist at SRUC explained that preliminary analysis of the data from this small study may suggest that there is a dramatic difference in sires and the amount of methane that is produced by their offspring.
A number of other countries, including New Zealand and Ireland have conducted similar studies and are looking into how breeding can be optimised to reduce livestock methane outputs.
As was mentioned in RH&W’s Acting on Methane report, launched last year, there is a requirement for reducing emissions. The report lays out a number of strategies to reduce on-farm emissions by prioritising health and welfare of ruminants.