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Q&A Series: Bovine Veterinarians Weigh-In on Dairy Health Issues

September 29, 2020

We sat down with two top-notch dairy veterinarians to gather their thoughts on significant animal health issues dairy farmers are facing today.

Here is what they had to say:

Marissa Hake, DVM Director of Animal Welfare and Sustainable Farming Fairlife, LLC 

Gabe Middleton, DVM, DABVP (Dairy) Orrville Veterinary Clinic Orrville, Ohio 

Q: What is one of the most significant health issues facing your clients and the dairy industry?

Hake - Well, I'm biased because I've spent most of my time on the calf side, but I believe Salmonella Dublin. I saw this as a significant issue within the calf rearing industry, and it can be really challenging for producers. Stringent biosecurity and control measures are a significant challenge when trying to control this pathogen.

Middleton - Transition cow diseases are the most significant health issue facing the dairy industry. Many herds have done a better job of reducing them, but industry-wide the rate of many of these diseases does not seem to be improving year over year. These diseases carry both financial and welfare challenges.  

Q: Can you share some challenges your herds are facing when it comes to calf health?

Hake - Not specifically a health challenge, but a public perception challenge. Our consumers are concerned about the care and treatment of dairy calves. As veterinarians and producers, we must start looking five, 10, 15 years down the road and start addressing concerns around cow-calf separation, calf socialization and rearing practices.

Middleton - Bovine respiratory disease in calves is a challenge that many herds continue to face. Over the years there has been an emergence of other pathogens, such as Mycoplasma bovis, that have made control even more challenging. The advent of lung ultrasound in calves has also made the industry realize that BRD can be present at a subclinical level and cause downstream economic loss in the first lactation.  

Q: What’s the biggest challenge facing your business?

Hake - When I think about the big picture, it will be tackling the environmental aspect of dairy production. We have made really awesome sustainability commitments as an industry, and I'm really excited to see how we reach these goals. I believe that the dairy industry can achieve carbon-neutrality or even become a carbon sink! This won't be accomplished by one single thing but by a combination of cropping systems, methane digesters, improved genetics, feed additives and other technologies.

Middleton - The sustainability of dairy veterinary practices is largely dependent on the sustainability of dairy clients. In addition, dairy veterinarians need to continue to re-invent themselves so that they remain relevant to their clients and provide sufficient value to justify their place on the farm’s management team. Many veterinarians have done a great job accomplishing this.



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