Thursday, June 12, 2014

to the Netherlands. This trip was a bit of work and a bit of a holiday. Our son Erwin just did his high school exams (and he passed) and that was a good reason to combine an invitation to present at the Livestock Health and Production Group (LHPG) of the South African Veterinary Association (SAVA) with a bit of holiday together with Erwin. The meeting was very nicely organized, with good food, interesting people and a great place to keep it: Skukuza, which is the main camp of the Kruger Park. Having a meeting in Skukuza was something that had to be combined with a holiday.
This is written on my way back from Cape Town
 We did quite some gaming and saw the big five and a lot of other interesting animals. Thanks to Willem and Madaleen Schultheis, who were so friendly that we could use their car during the conference!! Some foto’s are attached.

But I do not write this blog to share holiday pictures. It is about management of animal health and I did give a number of presentations at the conference. The first was a generic presentation on new developments in the Dutch dairy industry that I thought are interesting for veterinarians in general: automation, abolishment of the quota system and the reduction in the use of antibiotics.

The second was on reproduction, where I presented quite some of the PhD work of Chaidate Inchaisri (I have written before about that work earlier) and some new material of Niels Rutten, who is currently doing a PhD. The third presentation was to replace somebody who unfortunately could not attend the meeting and the topic he was to present about was economics of mastitis, that was something I could do quite quickly, since I have a lot of material about mastitis readily available. In fact it was a presentation I gave before in Spain

The fourthpresentation was about Q fever. The organization asked me to present something on the Dutch goad and/or sheep sector. Luckily I was, together with Mirjam Nielen, one of the advisors of Maaike Gonggrijp, who did her MSc thesis on a quantified value chain analysis on the Q fever outbreak in the Netherlands in 2007-2009.
The final presentation was scheduled at 8.00 AM, after the night of the gala dinner and there was some good South African wine on that gala dinner. To my great surprise the room was well filled. My compliments for the discipline of the audience!! The presentation was an overview of the work ofMarjolein Derks, who will soon defend her thesis on Veterinary Herd Health and Management Programs (VHHM) in the Netherlands. In my opinion, these programs are of growing importance to the dairy industry. There is more and more attention of society for healthy animals and that in combination with a reduction in the use of antibiotics calls for more efforts in disease prevention. Recently Marjolein got two papers published in the Journal of Dairy Science. The first was a description of the participation of farmers in Veterinary Herd Health and Management Programs, where she related this participation with farmer characteristics, to see whether it is a specific part of the farmers that are participating in VHHM.  The most carried out activities in VHHM were (still) fertility checks and advice about fertility. The least carried out was advice on claw health and housing. Especially those farmers that use information and trust information were found to participate more often in VHHM. In the second paper, the information on participation in VHHM was related to the data of CRV (the work was financed by CRV, for which I gratefully want to acknowledge them!!).  

Farmers who participated in VHHM produced 336 kg of milk/cow per year more and their average milk somatic cell count (SCC) was 8,340 cells/mL lower than farmers who did not participate in VHHM. Participating herds, however, had an older age at first calving (+12 d), a lower 56-d nonreturn rate percentage (−3.34%), and a higher number of inseminations per cow (+0.09 inseminations). They also had more cows culled per year (+1.05%), and a lower age at culling (−70 d). A distinction was made in the level of participation. Participants in the most-extended form of VHHM (level 3) had a lower SCC (−19,800 cells/mL), fewer cows with high SCC (−1.70%), fewer cows with new high SCC (−0.47%), a shorter calving interval (−6.01 d), and fewer inseminations per heifer (−0.07 inseminations) than participants in the least extended form of VHHM (level 1). Level 3 participants, however, also had more cows culled per year (+1.74%) and a lower age at culling (−103 d).

So from these data, it seems that VHHM is associated with, very important, a better milk production level and udder health . Reproductive performance is not necessarily better and there is some more culling. The questions is now how these variables can be weighed (economically) against eachother. We have carried out some economic analyses. These are shortly summarized in the presentation and papers on these analyses are out there somewhere, waiting to be published (the MSc work of Isioma Ifende is recently accepted for publication) and hopefully accepted. So you will hear more about this topic.

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