A survey has revealed dairy farmers are more likely to focus on the consequences of immune suppression around calving, rather than address the cause.
Alistair Macrae, vet and lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, thinks a shift in approach is needed: “Most dairy producers are aware their cows are more vulnerable around calving but don’t focus on why this is the case. At the moment, we spend far too much time fixing ‘broken cows’ rather than focusing on prevention.
“There is a real opportunity for farmers to address immune suppression as a key cause of their most problematic dairy healthcare issues.”
A series of surveys commissioned by Elanco Animal Health found 94 per cent of UK dairy vets and 72 per cent of producers rank mastitis as the leading herd health concern for dairy producers, with almost three quarters of farmers correctly identifying immune suppression as a core cause of the disease.
Despite this awareness, addressing immune suppression is not high on the list of priorities for farmers, with immune suppression barely making the top 10 list of their most important herd health concerns.
While 94 per cent of farmers recognise the importance of successfully managing the period around calving for herd health, the survey results reveal that they do not always associate key transition diseases with the correct cause.
For example, while mastitis is directly related to immune suppression, ketosis, milk fever and displaced abomasum are not. However, the latter illnesses were consistently cited among survey respondents as leading consequences of compromised immunity.
Around calving, all cows undergo a dip in immunity, with the function of essential immune cells neutrophils reducing by up to 40 per cent, leaving herds vulnerable to transition diseases such as mastitis, metritis and retained placenta.