International perspective on dairying and lameness discussed at Kentuckiana event
Campbellsville Ky. -- Getting younger people and skilled workers into dairy is a struggle not only in the U.S., but even moreso in Europe, according to Dr. Nicola Blackie, keynote speaker during the Kentuckiana Dairy Exchange July 29-30 near Campbellsville, Ky. She spent a month at the University of Kentucky, seeing how dairy is done in the U.S. and furthering her research on locomotion scoring. She said herd sizes in England are growing, and the dairy industry there is losing cow numbers and people.
Dr. Blackie sees firsthand how the animal rights movement in Europe, and the increasing size of dairy farms, conspire to create new challenges in how new and expanding dairies can plan their facilities and manage their cattle. Her research focus ties in with these challenges by improving the data behind locomotion scoring, or “mobility scoring” as it is now called in Europe.
Specifically, Dr. Blackie looks for objective measurements that can be quantified. She uses computerized technologies such as accelerometers and kinematics to gather data points.
Blackie stressed the importance of making time for mobility scoring, noting that when producers and their employees are trained to do it -- and do it often -- the results are repeatable and consistent. This leads to more accurate early detection. Precision technologies available today assist in this process, she said.
“The best time to do mobility scoring is after milking, if possible,” Blackie suggested. “Choose a flat, nonslip area to observe the cows as they walk at a natural pace, not pushed.”
She also studied cow lying and eating behaviors.
“Most studies suggest lame cows lie down more, but I wanted to know: What does a lame cow actually do, compared with a non-lame cow?” Blackie noted. She learned that lame cows tend to be up and around in the middle of the night when other cows are lying down.