Another month has passed and with the stressful task of finalising personal statements for the October 15th UCAS deadline for veterinary courses, our editors would have been forgiven for not finding the time in their hectic schedules to bring you their articles. However, it is testament to how committed they are that they pulled all the stops and so here, again, we have an installment of interesting vetty content for you exercise the grey matter on.
Pilot badger culls to go ahead
Emma Plowright (Vet News Farm Editor)
Bovine tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease which affects cattle. Official estimates suggest that an outbreak of TB on a farm may cost the farmer £12,000 and the tax payer £22,000.
Lord Krebs, who carried out the research upon which the decision was based, has described the culls as ‘crazy’. Krebs’ work suggested that the spread of TB could be slowed over a nine-year period if 70% of the badgers in an area were eradicated. He believes that if the numbers were less than this however, this would no longer be true. In fact, the disturbance to the badger population could lead to increased spread of the disease. He has stated that, without knowing badger population numbers, there can be no way of knowing if 70% have been eradicated. The cull has also been opposed by many animal rights groups.
DEFRA says that it will use previous studies and will be carrying out its own research in order to estimate badger populations. It expects that, if the culls are successful, a 16% decrease in Tb incidence may be seen in the target areas over the next nine years. Farmers in the worst affected areas have said that, for them, this reduction would be significant. In other areas of England, the reduction may be around 5%. The culling will be funded by farmers themselves although it is expected that other costs will be involved, for example police time spent controlling protests. A DEFRA spokesperson also stated that ‘no country in the world where wildlife carries TB has eradicated the disease in cattle without tackling it in wildlife too.’
Culling will be carried out by trained individuals in specific areas and will be closely controlled. A number of criteria must be met before a license is granted. For a 6 week period, the culls will be independently monitored and if it is decided that they are effective and humane, the culling will continue for a further four years.
A badger vaccination program is currently in place in Wales. Many groups are calling for a similar strategy to be put in place in England as an alternative to culling.
Lambs to reduce carbon footprints!
Hannah Johnstone (Vet News Farm Editor)
Across the UK the agricultural world has been set a target to reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 11% (3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year) by the year of 2020. Low carbon farming can save money and increase income by responding to the needs of consumers. One sector needing to reduce carbon emissions is the sheep sector.
For most sheep farmers their goal is to produce more food to feed the ever growing population. Now they have an added extra to increase lamb production as well as reducing their emissions, they must improve their efficiency but at the same time ensure an increasing profit. The farmers are advised on how to reduce their carbon footprints by the Greenhouse Gas Action Plan with the help of EBLEX and DEFRA.
One example of a farmer trying to achieve this goal is Northumberland sheep farmer Duncan Nelless. His farm has 1,500 ewes, the farms carbon footprint is 8.3kg carbon dioxide per kg of lambs. Duncan’s farm’s carbon footprint is one of lowest when compared to the high of 15.3kg carbon dioxide per kg of lambs within the UK. The farms fast-finishing lambs mean they are able to create an efficient environment; lower the farms food cost and take advantage of early sheep markets.
Duncan Nelless’s farm-Thistleyhough has achieved a low carbon score by measuring their flock’s performance; they do this by the use of EIDs (electronic identification tag) to select their most efficient sheep. In doing this they have been able to improve the finishing growth rate by more than 20%. Another key thing they have done is managing grazing of livestock; they use a 10 year rotation system, they believe their effective grassland management is proving to maximise the farm’s efficiency as it is acting as a carbon sink.
There are certain characteristics of a low carbon sheep unit some being that the ideal finishing weight is achieved as quickly and as early as possible, that the sheep are fed a high quality ration with high Metabolisable Energy density and also that reliance on purchase inputs is reduced where possible.
Low carbon farming is an aim for 2020; farming plays a huge part in greenhouse gas emission with a continuous growth of demand for products. Efficient and sustainable farming is going to be difficult to accomplish in order to meet the goals of the Greenhouse Gas Action Plan.
Equine Cushings Disease
Pippa Lyon (Vet News Equine Editor)
Equine Cushing’s disease or Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction is the most common endocrine disorder in older horses. Because horses are now living longer Cushing’s is becoming more and more prevalent in horses today, with more that 15% of horses and ponies above 15 years being affected.
The disease occurs when an imbalance occurs in the hormones secreted from the pituitary gland which leads to an imbalance of other hormones in the body. These hormonal changes show as the clinical signs for the disease.
Although any breed of horse may develop Cushing’s disease, it is very common in horses that have reoccurring laminitis. I recent study shows that 80% of horses with laminitis may have Cushing’s disease.
The second most common symptom is Hirsutism, where the horse can grow a thick curly coat that does not completely shed in the summer. The picture to the left shows an extreme case.
Other symptoms may include sweating, increased appetite and loss of condition. In some cases you can get abnormal fat distribution above they eye where normal horses would have a depression.
A blood test must be taken to diagnose Cushing’s disease which involves taking initial bloods, then injecting a steroid which will raise cortisol levels. The next day, a second blood test is taken and if cortisol levels are still elevated, the horse is diagnosed with Cushing’s.
Unfortunately as of yet, there is no cure for Cushing’s disease, so treatment is based on controlling the symptoms although there is now medicine available to help normalise hormone secretion.
Donaldson et al. “Evaluation of suspected pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction in horses with laminitis”. JAVMA, Vol 224, No. 7, 1 April 2004
McGowan. “Diagnostic and Management Protocols for Equine Cushings Syndrome” In Practice, November/December 2003