Guest blogger Amy Watson (Final year, BSc (Hons) Agriculture with Animal Science) outlines her research into the correlation between bovine lameness and nutrition. Amy’s placement year in the dairy industry was the springboard for her research project, which is supported by the outstanding facilities at Harper Adams.
Alongside studying, I work within the dairy industry, relief milking and completing mobility score assessments which allow herd welfare and performance to be monitored and enhanced.
My placement role involved the completion of dairy herd assessments to provide a basis for nutritional advice on units across the UK, incorporating factors such as body condition score, rumen fill and mobility to measure transition performance.
Over the year, I became skilled in the scoring of dairy cattle and developed an ability to evaluate herd performance limiting factors such as cow comfort.
My studies and industry experience have facilitated the development of my passion for efficient dairying, and the maintenance of optimal cow health and welfare through effective management, nutrition, and cow comfort.
To deepen my understanding on nutrition’s influence in lameness – a factor which introduces production inefficiencies, limits performance, and threatens welfare – I am undertaking a final year Honours Research Project evaluating the effect of dietary zinc level and form on hoof hardness and mobility in early lactation dairy cows.
The facilities at Harper Adams University have allowed me to conduct the trial, which utilises data from a herd of cows on the university farm.
The cows, which are scored for mobility and hoof hardness at regular intervals, are equipped with transponders which allow them access to one of four diets through automated feed bins, containing different forms and levels of dietary zinc.
It is anticipated that data collected throughout the trial will provide insight into whether nutrition, specifically dietary zinc level and form, affects hoof health and lameness – factors which are shown to limit performance, welfare, and ultimately farm business profitability.
Completion of this trial as part of my final year project is facilitating the development of my research and analytical skills, alongside my technical knowledge surrounding dairy herd management and ruminant nutrition, an area in which I wish to progress following completion of my degree at Harper.