VEGA News Item

Vets Learn the Facts of Life - 11/05/2012

Sally Wilson is a DairyCo trained mobility mentor who helps dairy farmers tackle welfare issues and promote a positive and professional image by being ‘proud of dairy’.
In the Veterinary Record, 14 April 2012, she describes her work as tremendously satisfying, but also how “lame cows were simply part of the furniture and raised no comment”. So much for her forebears, all Herriot warriors to the man, to comment on particularly female problems, but she represents a young approach to the dairy industry.

“The very first time I set foot on my first dairy farm when seeing farm practice, I knew that I wanted to be a dairy vet. Fresh-faced and naive, with absolutely no farming background or experience, I thought I could change the world if I set my mind to it. I was therefore amazed at how accepted lameness was. Lame cows were simply part of the furniture and raised no comment at all.

“Looking back, it was even more worrying when, as a young, recently qualified vet, spending day after exhausting day on an exponential learning curve, scanning, calving, dehorning, castrating, I suddenly realised that I wasn't noticing lame cows either. After an amazingly short period of time, I had become desensitised and, already, was automatically ignoring the signs.

“As my career developed, I became interested in dairy cow fertility and I admit that lameness didn't really float my boat. When I attended training for the DairyCo Healthy Feet Programme, it was not an interest in the subject matter that attracted me. I attended the course for two reasons:

• Lameness is a major example of failure in dairy cow welfare – and ‘welfare’ is a prominent red-flag issue;

• As the proprietor of a fairly young farm practice, I wanted to make sure that we held our own with availability of services for our clients. I also quite fancied having the title ‘mobility mentor’.

“The thing about feet is that it is actually fairly easy to quite speedily produce good results. The stumbling block is getting farmers to recognise that they have a problem in the first place – and this is where the programme helps, by getting the farmer to see his cows as they are: lame.”

We congratulate Sally Wilson on her insights, even though they represent years of misery on longstanding problems. Let us now hope that she will see the advantages of plant milks.


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