Royal Veterinary College, London

Tue, 2017-05-02

The Dairy Science Forum’s first meeting of the year was organised and hosted by John Fishwick, at Boltons Park Farm in Potters Bar, the farm of the Royal Veterinary College, University of London.

John Fishwick, Senior Lecturer in Dairy Herd Medicine at the RVC, kicked off the meeting with a short overview of the veterinary training that is delivered. The RVC is the biggest vet school in the UK, and has an annual vet student intake of 300, of which 85% are female. The College also offers a Bio-veterinary Science degree and vet nursing courses.

Farm Manager Paul Christian ran through the challenges of running a veterinary school farm and showed delegates around the dairy unit. The dairy herd is one of only six in Hertfordshire. The other livestock present on the farm for the benefit of students were sheep and Christmas turkeys. There were four main aims of the farm: teaching, commercial, research and public engagement. The farms hosts many visits by the public, and received 650 people at the last Open Farm Sunday.

Afterwards, Claire Wathes, Professor of Veterinary Reproduction gave an update on some of her research including breeding studies with the GplusE (Genotype plus Environment) consortium – more details of which can be found at

Al Manning, Senior Clinical Research Scholar presented information he had been gathering on the emerging disease - Bovine Ischaemic Teat Necrosis – which is defined as a crusting dermatitis at the udder-teat junction. Research is ongoing into its cause(s) and prevention.

Dr Richard Booth, Lecturer and Head of the RVC Farm Animal Group, gave an update on the BVD Free campaign which was first launched in July 2016. The scheme has two main elements: 1) The building of a national database of BVD-free animals, and 2) to encourage a co-ordinated approach by the industry through education, to eradicate the disease from the national herd. There were already over 90 industry organisations and commercial companies who had pledged their support to the scheme.

DSF members then moved on to the Ramada Hotel in Hatfield where a late afternoon business meeting was held prior to dinner.

At dinner, DSF members were joined by Clare Wathes, Paul Christian, and AHDB’s Chief Strategy Officer Tom Hind, who led the after-dinner discussion.

Tom had previously held a number of roles within the NFU including Director of Corporate Affairs, and been agriculture director at Tesco. He had been with the AHDB for 18 months and was heavily involved in horizon scanning and setting future strategies.

Tom outlined three big challenges: 1) the consumer – it all starts there! 2) Productivity – UK farmers need to be competitive, 3) and the uncertain consequences of Brexit.

The following morning after breakfast, DSF member Mark Rutter, Professor of Applied Animal Behaviour at Harper Adams University presented to the group, and asked for their input in refining priorities for a Research Partnership funded by AHDB Dairy.  The topic was: Profitable, effective and sustainable environments for dairy cattle: The future of dairy cow housing. This research will be conducted by Nottingham University, Harper Adams University and SRUC.

Mark presented survey findings which showed 8% of herds were now housed all year round, while 31% of herds followed the traditional pattern of being grazed outside all summer. This new research project will aim to establish what the next generation of cow housing is going to look like, and will take into account factors impacting on production, cow health, and economics with some consideration to the consumer and their perceptions on dairy farming.