Back in 2009, I attended a seminar on BVD and its eradication at Corrin Mart, Fermoy.
The amphitheatre was full of dignitaries, farmers and vets.
In the questions and answer session at the end, someone brought up the new course UCD were introducing, entitled “Post Graduate Certificate in Dairy Herd Health”.
I remember it caused a bit of a rumpus in Corrin Mart, because this course was only open to qualified veterinary surgeons.
After researched it online, I decided to apply. Over the next two years, I found the subjects to be fascinating.
One of our fellow vets on this course, Martin Kavanagh, introduced us to the Cow Signals program. He had attended these courses and qualified as a trainer.
This idea of Cow Signals was developed by Joep Driessen and Jan Hulsen, Dutch vets not long out of college who realised their vocation lay not in treating and curing sick animals, as they had been taught, but rather in the prevention of the many problems that afflict the modern dairy farm.
While going about their daily work, they kept seeing chronically lame cows and cows that presented all too frequently with mastitis during the lactation.
They set about finding out from the best farmers in the world how they managed to keep cows in the herd far longer than the average herd, with virtually no lameness or mastitis?
As their website says, “They gathered all the information and science available, and combined that with best practice from the world’s top farmers, into practical advice for farmers, advisors and vets”.
They started workshops so that people could learn their ways and trained people to “spread the gospel”.
Jan Hulsen was the one who was entrusted with the job of writing the books, and for the last 15 years, they became a bigger and bigger training company.
Basically, they involve the whole dairy industry, including milk processors, the feed industry, housing companies, etc. and they are really taken up with animal welfare.
What cow signals entails is looking and listening to what the cow is telling us.
Most of the time, we look, but seldom do we really understand what we see.
For example: if you see cows coming in from the field for a milking, and their rumen does not look full, even though there is plenty of grass cover in the paddock, what does this tell you?
You should always check the water supply. When a cow gets to drink less water than she would like, she eats less too, and between the two, she also milks less.
The capacity of water troughs, especially nowadays when we have increased herd size, needs to be re-examined, so there is enough water available every day for the hottest day of the year.
Cows can drink up to 100 litres of water in a day, and experts calculate that there should be at least 20 litres of water per cow available in each paddock at any one time.
This is best provided in two separate troughs so that bullying by dominant cows does not prevent the low ranking cow from access to the water trough.
I find it fascinating to read through their publications.
You read something there and say to yourself “Isn’t that just so obvious!”
Paul Redmond, MVB, MRCVS, Cert DHH, Duntahane Veterinary Clinic, Fermoy, member practice of Prime Health Vets