The Effect of a Health Intervention Scheme on the Mobility of Dairy Cows in the Southwest of England
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Health intervention schemes have previously been used in order to improve animal welfare and to reduce and sometimes eradicate disease (Bell et al., 2009). This investigation looks at the success of one such scheme upon the incidence of cattle lameness. Farmers participating in the Healthy Livestock Scheme, which took place in the South West of England from November 2010- January 2014, had their cattle mobility scored before commencing any mentored training, to determine pre-intervention lameness prevalence and again after intervention. The results confirm there was a significant reduction in lameness, from an average 26.7% lame before any intervention to 20.4% after. This means there was on average, 23.6% fewer cases of lameness after farms had participated in the Healthy Livestock Scheme, than before. In an average 128 cow herd, this equates to seven fewer cows becoming lame each year and, based on a single case of lameness costing £180 (AHDB, 2016), this represents a significant saving of £1,283 per annum. Importantly, none of the independent variables had a significant effect upon the change in lameness seen between pre and post-intervention mobility scores. This means the Healthy Livestock scheme was effective at reducing lameness regardless of farming system, breed, herd size, housing, or number of FTEs. The wider implications of this mean that, crucially, this type of funded vet and farmer interaction reaps benefits for all farm types, regardless of these factors.