Dairy farms are getting bigger and the disease challenge is increasing, whilst at the same time consumers are increasingly demanding more ‘natural’ products.
The challenge for farmers and vets is essentially how to produce more high quality milk, with less disease prevalence.
That was the message delivered to delegates at the World Buiatrics Congress in Dublin at a session which focused on the importance of disease prevention not only for milk producers but the entire food supply chain.
The session was supported by MSD Animal Health and chaired by Devon cattle producer, Dr Andy Bigg. Speakers included prominent Irish vet Frank O’Sullivan, who chairs the Food Safety and Quality Working Group at the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe, Danone’s Director of Environment and Milk Quality, Didier Moreau, and Jeroen van De Ven of MSD Animal Health.
Van de Ven, Associate Vice President of MSD’s Global Ruminants Lead Division, spoke about how the company is committed to helping clients translate disease control into performance, profitability and market access.
“Animal disease prevention has a crucial role to play in promoting a healthy food chain. Consumers want more ‘natural’ products with a minimal use of antibiotics and hormones, dairy companies want a consistent, reliable milk supply, and farmers want to maximise their productivity and profitability – it’s not hard to see how disease prevention has direct consequences for everyone across the chain.
“We are seeing the balance shift from treatment of diseases to disease prevention, with animal welfare being viewed as an enabler. We are committed to leading the way in prevention through a range of programmes globally. By preventing disease, we are reducing dependency on treatments, whilst at the same time increasing market access for our clients,” he added.
Didier Moreau, Director of Environment and Milk Quality for Danone, outlined the company’s mission as ‘bringing health through food to as many people as possible.’ He emphasised that food safety and traceability is at the heart of their milk sourcing, and outlined how animal health feeds into not only product quality but also to their overall brand perceptions.
“We work with over 100,000 farmers from 50 countries, and we are committed to sustainable agriculture production across our supply base. We see many advantages to an approach based on disease prevention – higher productivity, better image, and a lower cost. Ultimately it benefits producer, dairy processors and consumers alike,” said Didier.
Vet Frank O’Sullivan shared his thoughts on how farmers and vets can work better together to improve herd health and create a more sustainable future for dairy farming.
“The vet’s role within the food chain is now more relevant than ever – how we work with farmers has a direct impact on milk quality and profitability,” said Frank. “We are seeing more of a focus on key interventions – aiming to manage risk from the earliest possible stage. This is all being driven by customer and consumer demands at the end of the food chain.
“Vets must work very closely with farmers to improve herd health by taking a structured approach and ensuring ongoing communication. It is much more than simply being called in to fix a problem – the focus must be on managing and measuring herd health on an ongoing basis. This will ultimately have a cost benefit as disease prevention should be cheaper than treatment. And it’s not just about costs - the peace of mind that comes with improved herd health shouldn’t be underestimated.”