Healthy herds mean savings for farmers

We’ve been working with dairy farmers to make cattle healthier. And it’s made farming more efficient – saving farmers £13.1m in six years.

A cow grazing in a field

Our customers want to be sure that healthy cattle are used to produce the milk on their cereal.

Farmers, too, want healthy herds. That’s because cattle health problems – such as lameness, mastitis and metabolic disease – aren’t only bad news for cows: they cost money, too.

So, since 2008, we’ve been trying to improve the health and welfare of dairy herds by working with farmers in our Dairy Development Group, in partnership with a team of vets and other specialists. The idea is to help farmers save money and have healthier, more productive herds.

Healthier cattle each year

Since we started working with farmers on this, we’ve seen great results.

Each year from 2008 to 2014, cattle have been healthier than the year before. Overall, we’ve seen levels of lameness fall by 51 per cent, while mastitis has gone down by 46 per cent and levels of three metabolic diseases have fallen by 50 per cent.

51%

fall in levels of lameness in cattle in the project, from 2008 to 2014.

Millions of pounds in savings

The programme has led to huge savings. Lower vet bills are one reason. Lower antibiotic use is another: if there is antibiotic residue in milk, we can’t sell it – so healthier herds mean less waste. In all, we saved £13.1m between 2008 and 2014.

There are still challenges. For instance, we're now looking at how we can change the ‘calving interval’ to make farming more efficient. Data from farmers – alongside a project funded by one of our R&D grants – suggests that the younger the age at first calving, the more efficient the herd.

So we’ve decided to look into this too – and see what savings we can make there.