Using Obsalim for Herd Health

A group of Wiltshire dairy farmers have been using a French diagnostic tool to help manage their herds feed, and monitor their health. This summer they met to discuss how it had helped them and their animals.

How can a pack of cards help manage your herd?

The Obsalim technique is simply a set of cards which you carry with you in your pocket. Each card relates to a symptom in your animals behaviour, or with their eyes, feet, dung or energy levels. Some symptoms would be hard to miss, but others are more subtle. By using the cards, you can diagnose what your herd needs.

Christine Gosling from Berkeley Farm Dairy learned about the technique from her vet Edward De Beukelaer and said that “learning to use the cards was like learning a new language. It takes a while to get used to it, but then it starts to come naturally.”  Three farmers took part in the trial, and each had multiple visits from Obsalim trainer Edward De Beukelaer, and the rest of the group. This meant they got to try out the technique with their own cows, which everyone found was the best way to understand the system.

How did the technique benefit the group?

The group visited organic dairy farmer, Nick Freeth most often and interestingly, it’s Nick that’s seen the best results. Nick has a herd of around 200 cows and over the period he used Obsalim he saw a total increase of 6,000 litres in yield. This was at the same time as reducing his feed costs and reporting that his cows looked healthier. He said the biggest learning he got from the system was splitting his feed into two meals and making sure his herd got two periods of rumination each day. This really helped, particularly with his young stock. We asked Nick what he thought of Obsalim.

“Well, I suppose the best indication is that we’re still using it, long after the trial period ended! It’s a case of starting to really look at the animals, and then making adjustments to their feed. For example, I often have cows which are red in the claw, I draw that card and compare it with other symptoms I’m observing and it’s like an alarm button going off that they’re getting too much energy. I usually look back and see they’ve spent the day before on a rich clover ley. It’s all a work in progress though, so I’m really looking forward to trialling again this winter.”

The group are planning to use the technique through this winter and are on the lookout for more members.

Fore more information you can view the field lab reports, or get in touch with coordinator, Kate Still

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