Beef Herd Health Planning: Part (i)

Background:

The basis of any herd health plan is prevention rather than cure. Dairy herd health is frequently discussed, but herd health is equally important for beef farmers. I have seen huge improvements in performance after herd health plans have been implemented. This increased performance means more money in farmers' pockets in a sector that is struggling with margins.

What Your Plan Needs

It is important to have clear goals and targets at the outset. You plan must be driven by you, the farmer, with your vet and other advisors overseeing and recommending changes and inclusions.These herd plans work best when everyone on the farm is involved in implementation. The plan can be simple or elaborate, but it must be able to adapt and evolve from year to year.

The Importance of Record-Keeping

Health plans are all about good record keeping and looking at key performance indicators and how they can be improved. In a recent example, I discovered an issue with calf scour and fertility after looking at the farmer's records for the previous two years. It is only by looking at records that you notice abnormal incidents of disease and also assess fertility issues at herd level. You have a lot of information on your farm, but you must use it. A health plan should allow for the inclusion of all records required for the year ahead.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

A good health plan should cover disease, nutrition, vaccination, parasitology, fertility, and biosecurity. No single plan will suit all farms, however, and each farm/enterprise can be very different. A health plan can be broken down so that certain tasks are undertaken on a monthly basis and SOPs are set up for that particular farm.

SOPs could be in place around navel care, for example. This would involve the wash used, (e.g. chlorohexidine), the number of washes given, and records taken of any incidences of navel infection. This will set up best practice for routine procedures on farm and allow these to be monitored on a yearly basis to see where improvements can be made.

If an issue such as calf pneumonia arises, then appropriate controls can be put in place to monitor future cases and establish preventative measures. Many farms will be doing this already, of course, but producing records and monitoring them improves performance hugely. From my experience on the ground, SOPs lead to a far more proactive approach to controlling disease, producing better cure rates on farm. Increased proactivity in relation to health planning tends to make these changes permanent.

How We Can Help

At Co-Farm, we believe in a proactive approach, but it must be driven by the farmer. Set up your herd plan today and begin #farmingthefuture    
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