Learning to read a herd through Obsalim
Edward De Beukelaer trains farmers in the herd observation technique, Obsalim. In 2016, he trained members of the Innovative Farmers field lab on herd observation. Recently we asked Edward to tell us about how he came across Obsalim and how it can help farmers understand their animals are responding to their feed.
When I discovered Obsalim, many years ago, it was a Eureka moment for me. After many years as a vet in a livestock practice, I realized something was wrong in the way modern farming was practised. Farmers were being inundated with advice and pressure from all quarters – usually to spend money on new ideas or equipment- yet they lacked the means of identifying the truth in what they were being told. This effectively disempowered them and meant they needed to make decisions based on blind faith.
In the late 1980s Dr Bruno Giboudeau, a French vet, stumbled upon a simple physical observation that proved a reliable indicator that correlated to a drop in rumen Ph. He noticed that when cows were fed too much highly fermentable energy, they licked themselves high up their backs behind the shoulder blade. It proved easy to provoke or stop this shoulder licking by making changes to the ration. Furthermore, the same phenomenon also occurred in sheep and goats. Being a curious fellow, Bruno started looking for other signs relating to the state of rumination. Over fifteen years he observed, studied and honed the results to a set of physically observable criteria which proved reliable indicators of rumen activity. Ingeniously, he found a simple way to present these observations as a practical tool for farmers to use. With help from a few pioneers, he proved the reliability and began presenting the Obsalim Observation Method.
As always with anything new, there was an initial reluctance to change and introduce this in a busy farming life. But as word spread about how much food costs could be reduced by applying the Obsalim Observation Method, more and more farmers were willing to embrace the system and learn how to use it successfully on their farms. Over 8000 farms now use it and the demand for Obsalim is growing exponentially, aside from France, demand for courses is coming from Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Australia and the USA.
I translated the Obsalim method into English and spent some time coming to grips with all its intricacies and the best ways to teach it to farmers in the UK. I soon realized I could not do all this alone and that I needed to find somebody with the same passion as myself to help the farmers help themselves. We established our company (Ruminant Health) whose aim is to provide teaching and licensing of teachers. Our mission is to make this simple, effective and efficient system available to all ruminant farmers in the UK.
Obsalim is nothing fancy, it’s just a very reliable tool that allows anybody who is willing to learn the method to know what is happening in the animals’ rumens at any moment in time.
Interested in learning the Obsalim cards?
Through Ruminant Health we can run training for groups of 6 to 10 farmers. It works best when the groups are local to each other. If anyone is interested in finding out more, please read the news and testimonial page on our website to see what others say about Obsalim.