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We are excited to offer milking time testing with our VaDia units. This allows us to offer parlour testing with both static and dynamic elements; a service several of our farms have already benefitted from.

Rather than using a needle and a meter the VaDia units allow us to monitor vaccum readings in three mouthpieces of a single cluster during a normal milking. This can tell us what is happening to the cow’s udder during the milking process including valuable information about vaccum fluctuations, liner fit and over or under milking which will affect mastitis, cell count and cow comfort.

The blue, green and black lines in picture 1 show vacuum readings on three different mouthpieces of a single cluster during one normal milking. This is a normal trace which shows vacuum sharply drops once milk starts flowing from an udder that is correctly stimulated and increases just before the cluster comes off.

However, picture 2 presents quite a different pattern, where excessive and prolonged vacuum is applied to the teats both at the beginning and at the end of milking. These situations need to be investigated as they will lead to short and long-term negative effects on teats and will predispose to infection.

Milking plant ability to maintain vacuum has also been investigated during our farm visits. Vacuum should have minimal variations during milking, having a roughly linear reading as detailed in picture 3.

Drops in vacuum such as the ones in picture 4 affect milk flow, milking efficiency and udder health.

Our most common findings so far are:

•Biphasic milking (altering routines)

• Incorrect acr settings / overmilking

•Low mouthpiece vacuum

This is just some of the information that can be obtained from VaDia Milking Time Testing. Contact a member of our team today to find out more.


Between 15-20% of rams may have low fertility. Now is the time to rule out or correct common problems. A pre-breeding

examination can also identify the need for further investigation or replacement of both new and existing rams.

Checking the fertility of newly purchased or young rams will safeguard your investment. Testing older or suspect animals will highlight where you can improve productivity within

the flock. A ram will work more efficiently on his own; concentrating his energy on serving ewes rather than being distracted or intimidated by other rams. So ensuring maximum fertility is imperative to getting a high % of ewes in lamb promptly. Tightening up the lambing period will help to get lambs away quickly. Barren ewe numbers will be reduced and there is less need for investment in further rams.

Speak to a member of the South West Sheep Breeding team on 01769 610000.
We will be able to further explain the benefits to your flock and give you more information on the fertility testing process.


There are several ways to diagnose bovine TB. Sensitivity and specificity are the two measures used to rate the accuracy of the tests.

Sensitivity (Se) is the ability of the test to find infected animals. A highly sensitive test will pick out most/all of the infected animals in the group.

Specificity (Sp) is a measure of how reliable a positive result is, i.e. the number of false positives. A highly specific test will pick out mostly/only infected animals. http://www.tbknowledgeexchange.co.uk/tb- fact-sheets/


Post Mortem Examination

In England in 2017, approximately 36% of animals removed as skin test reactors showed visible lesions (VL) at slaughter. This percentage is lower for gamma test reactors. In new herd breakdowns we see around only 5% with VLs, and 15% in persistently infected herds. https:/tbhub.co.uk/wp-content/ uploads/2019/07/TB-reactor-research-at- APHA-Weybridge_PDF.pdf

Rather than being a failure of the diagnostic test, it’s to do with the usually slow progression of infection and the limitations of post mortem inspection in a commercial slaughterhouse. The more recently the animal has contracted the disease, the

poorer our chances of finding visible lesions become. The skin test can pick up a lesion the size of a sesame seed. Post mortem examination will not. If an animal is a skin test reactor, it has almost a 100% chance of truly being infected. But our chance of finding lesions at post mortem are on average only about 50:50.

APHA will also often take samples for culture. This is to identify which regional strain of the TB bacteria is involved, rather than confirming the diagnosis. Samples will sometimes be taken from non-VL carcases and cultured. TB bacteria are extremely slow-growing. These samples will be cultured for 6 weeks, and then DNA-typed. If there is no growth, they will be re-cultured for another 6 weeks. https://tbhub.co.uk/tb-facts/introduction-to- the-bacteria/

For more information, contact your Torch branch and ask to speak to one of our TBAS advisors; Jenny Schmidt, Ann Simons, Adam Reid or Jen Burnett


Thanks go to John and Bridget Goscomb of Sindercombe Farm, who recently hosted a meeting for our sheep farmers to discuss selection of lambs for slaughter.

Peter Morris (on behalf of AHDB) gave an insightful talk on meeting the target specifications for lamb carcases. There was lively debate on some of the issues raised and inevitably conversations turned to future proofing farms ahead of Brexit and influencing consumer opinions.

A practical session on assessing live lambs for slaughter suitability gave us all some useful tips and tricks for picking lambs at the optimal point. We hope that attendees took as much from the evening as we did and we would like to thank both the Goscombs for their hospitality and Peter for his time and expertise.


Should you experience a bulk tank failure please let us know so that we can assist with investigating and preventing any future failure.

As of 1 October 2019 it is a Red Tractor requirement to inform your vet of every bulk tank failure within
7 days.

Please feel free to speak to us regarding the other changes to the dairy red tractor requirements.


Our series of meetings on genomic testing were interesting and interactive which provoked a lot of discussion into the whys and wherefores of testing your next generation heifers.

The main aspect of the discussion was to explore the evidence behind testing which involved trial work following though the 305day yields of heifers who were genetically tested as calves.

The top 10% of heifers genomically tested showed an average improvement of yield over the bottom 10% of genomically tested heifers of 2700kg of milk. When

this compared to the parent average historic predictions (pre genomic data) the yield difference was only 1800kg of milk – this showed that genomic predictions gave a more accurate indication of future potential which allows for greater reliability in breeding decisions.

Furthermore, when we looked at the bottom 10% of parent average (pre genomic) predictions, we discovered some excellent heifers in that bottom 10% would have been deselected which realised an average milk loss of around 1400kg in those bottom 10% of heifers.

If you would like any more information surrounding the genomic testing of your future milkers please contact Sophia Elworthy at our South Molton branch.


Join us for an afternoon of hospitality as we watch Bideford take on Teignmouth on Saturday 16 November. Kick-off is at 2:30pm but please join us from 1pm for a drink and a bite to eat.