Post event update, antibiotic immunity in large animals

by | May 20, 2015

On a warm May afternoon, Next Generation members gathered at Beckhithe Farms, East of Norwich to hear about their established cattle and arable enterprise. It was a great turn out of members, with lots of new faces joining the group, many of whom have a strong farming focus on livestock.

Gary Gray took us on a tour around the farm, which houses 1200 suckler cows within 51 cattle yards. Calves are all sired by an Aberdeen Angus bull, which is a requirement for beef which is sold in Waitrose and marketed as Aberdeen Angus beef. Roughly 900 animals are finished a year at around 21 months, which are graded by Kate Sutton from Dovecote Park. To improve the recording of live weight gains and other information, an investment in EID technology has been made, with all animals having an EID tag. The weighing scales and EID reader means that this information can be sent to Farmplan Cattle Manager and easily collated and compared. The information produced has shown that finishing animals are gaining on average 1.3kg a day.

With 3000 cattle on the farm, in the winter months when cattle are housed more than 95 tonnes of feed a day is consumed. Therefore, as a saving mechanism they aim to grow as much of the feed as possible on farm with wheat, straw, maize and grass silage making a large proportion of the rations. This has meant that the rations were costing no more than £1.07/day/head. Gary informed us that in the winter when the cattle are housed the feeder wagon will be running for almost 12 hours a day to mix all the differing rations for the cattle. A muck for straw arrangement is also used between local farmers to gain more straw, with the farm using 3800 tonnes of straw through the winter months. From April onwards the cattle graze on the marshes, most of which are within a few miles of the farm. During the months when the cattle are out at grass each of the stockmen has his own route of marshes to check, with each round taking 2-3 hours on a good day and as much on 5-6 if they encounter problems. A strong focus was placed by Gary on the strength and value of his staff contributing to the success of the business. It was apparent that the staff have to be quick witted and extremely attentive with such a large number of animals on the farm.

It was also evident that the farm has a strong partnership with its vets (Three Rivers), with a herd health plan in place, which the staff and vets work towards. Mike and Will from Three Rivers attended the event, with Mike giving us a talk about the use of antibiotics on farm. Mike highlighted how it is a very topical area with a news report a few days ago announcing that Jim O’Neill had been appointed by David Cameron to work on the problem of antibiotic resistance, with lobbying groups from the European Parliament asking for more controlled use on antibiotics on farm. Mike explained that it is best practice to start using antibiotics according to need now, with the critically important antibiotics such as Marbocyl, Tylan to be used as the last resort for antibiotic treatment. In future there are plans from some of the retailers for farms to be judged through a rating of their responsible use of antibiotics.

The tour ended with a discussion on the arable side of the farm, with wheat, maize (for forage), sugar beet and fodder beet in rotation. The farm is also only a couple of miles from Cantley sugar beet factory.

AF and the Next Generation group would like to thank Gary Gray, his family and his staff for taking the time to host us and show us around their farm and also to Mike and Will from Three Rivers Vets for giving us such an informative and up to date talk on the use of antibiotics on farm.