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Farm Animal Practice
Guide to the rumen health visit
  1. Owen Atkinson

    Owen Atkinson qualified from Liverpool in 1994. He has worked predominantly in dairy practice and is a partner at Lambert, Leonard and May, a 13-vet farm practice in Shropshire. He chairs the XLVet Knowledge Transfer Steering Group and has been awarded a 2009 Nuffield Farming Trust travel scholarship to study the role of the vet in knowledge transfer in the dairy industry. He holds the RCVS certificate in cattle health and production.


ON dairy farms, there are usually three diets to consider – the one on the nutritionist's computer, the one the farmer feeds and the one the cow actually eats! Of course, it is the last one of these that is important and if it is incorrect in terms of nutrient supply and/or rumen health characteristics, the consequences will be unhealthy cows and reduced production. Many elements have to be assessed when considering dairy cow nutrition, so it is essential to adopt a logical and consistent approach in order to make a holistic and informed opinion about how cows are utilising their diet. It is also desirable that such an on-farm review is carried out within a reasonable time frame (eg, three hours) and for it to be practically feasible for the veterinary surgeon and farmer alike. This article describes the initial approach to a rumen health visit and discusses how to interpret the results obtained, although some findings may warrant further diagnostic work.

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