New technology is helping Welsh farmers improve the health and welfare of their livestock during calving, reducing the need for antibiotics.
Gwynedd dairy farmer Vaughan Davies has been trialling pedometer tags to alert him at an early stage when a cow is beginning to calve and to help identify cases of mastitis. The tags monitor heat and the health of his cows continually.
The calving season at Nant Farm, Pwllheli, started at the end of August, and Davies was assisted with the TRU-test Active-ear tags by Datamars, which alerted him when a cow was beginning to calve. According to Datamars, each heat cost £132-135 on average, while each health issue costs, on average, £239-240.
Davies has successfully reduced antibiotic use in his herd from 6mg/kg in 2021 to just 0.6mg/kg in 2022.
“The tags have been working quite well in terms of mastitis, and they have picked up 2 or 3 cases I did not find myself. So, maybe I’m using fewer antibiotics because I have injected the cows with an anti-inflammatory sooner. I’ll rely on the tags more in the future,” he said.
By using the ear tag technology and good practice, Davies has successfully reduced antibiotic use in his herd from 6mg/kg in 2021 to just 0.6mg/kg in 2022.
As well as reducing costs, the tags save him time and possibly even the life of a calf: “With the tags, I don’t have to watch the cows all the time, and being alerted to a calving or mastitis means I can take action sooner and head off a potential problem.”
For dairy farmers, reducing antibiotic use is becoming a crucial customer requirement.
The promotion of this type of new technology is part of a drive by the Welsh government to address the spread of antibiotic resistance in animals and the environment in Wales. For dairy farmers, capturing antibiotic use and reducing its use is becoming a crucial customer requirement – especially in milk processing contracts.
Technical officer Eiry Williams said: “Calving is a crucial time for every farm, and it’s very important for animal health and welfare and economic viability. Trialling new technology has proved to be effective in delivering calves safely with less chance of calf mortality – and the technology also reduces the need for antibiotics.”
Datamars recently announced a strategic partnership with Semex UK, which will see the company’s Tru-Test Active Tag heat and health monitoring solution integrated with Semex’s ai24 programme.