MOVES to support dairy cattle health and welfare include a new emphasis on preventing lameness.

Increasingly milk contractors are requiring that farmers have their cows assessed for lameness by RoMS accredited scorers.

The Register of Mobility Scorers is an independent body which helps to ensure standardised and accurate scoring by training and accrediting independent scorers across the UK.

Emily Tinning, one of two Vet Techs working for Paragon Veterinary Group’s farm division, has recently gained her RoMS accreditation. Emily, 29, says: “A lot of farms now need to have their cows assessed by a RoMS approved person, in order to keep their milk contract. The RoMS qualification is a one-day course and it’s designed to make sure that everyone who is scoring cows is doing it consistently. I have been mobility scoring cows for the past five years, but it is good to get it officially recognised.”

Crucially, accurate scoring can help avoid problems developing into something more serious, says Emily. “The cows are scored either zero, one, two or three. The twos are cows that are starting to show signs of a problem and the threes are lame,” she says. “We want to be picking up the twos - and they should be getting seen by the foot trimmer, or a vet, so that we catch problems early and prevent them going to a three and becoming seriously lame.”

Paragon now has two RoMS approved scorers as Emily’s fellow Vet Tech Karen McNeil is also accredited.

Mobility assessments are only one of the tasks which Vet Techs carry out for farmers. They are also trained to do vaccinations, stress-free disbudding, blood testing and worm egg counts.

The Vet Tech is a role which is well established in New Zealand and is now growing in the UK. Paragon is among the first to pioneer the use of Vet Techs as part of their team. “We decided to introduce Vet Techs because we saw a need for them from clients,” said Paragon Farm Vet Lead Philip Wilkinson.

The increased popularity of Vet Techs – who work under the supervision of veterinary surgeons - is partly being driven by the new requirements from milk buyers, such as for animals to be disbudded at less than three weeks by a suitably trained person, and for ongoing herd lameness assessments by registered mobility scorers.

Emily lives in Gretna, grew up on a dairy farm near Canonbie, and is married to Will, a beef and sheep farmer. She started with Paragon as a farm administrator and then became the practice’s first Vet Tech, learning on the job with the practice vets. “The Vet Tech job is to make the farmer’s life a bit easier, knowing there’s someone that’s going to regularly come and do these jobs and that we will do it properly and professionally. I really enjoy the work getting out on farm, seeing farmers and supporting them to keep their stock healthy.”