Take advantage of advances in herd health investigation

In 2010, I embarked on a two-year course at UCD, the Certificate in Dairy Herd Health course.

Take advantage of advances in herd health investigation

This opened my eyes to a whole new world of investigation and monitoring in all the different areas of herd health.

An investigation starts when a farmer realises that he or she has a major problem with something like cell count, too many empty cows, or a sudden rush of positive BVD samples.

Answers can sometimes come very easily, but most importantly, an investigation should be carried out in an organised and thorough manner.

In this way, we do not jump to conclusions and maybe miss the correct diagnosis.

Once we have arrived at the answers, that should not be the end of it.

Always, there should be monitoring to make sure there will be no slipping back from the peak performance that we desire. Otherwise, we may not realise the situation to be as bad as it is until we are back down at the bottom of the hill again.

There are many types of monitoring that help us to keep on track and possibly improve our position over time.

Most milk companies offer analysis of bulk tank samples.

Great improvements in laboratory tests helped to make this possible.

They now offer monitoring of BVD, IBR, Salmonella, Leptospirosis, Neospora, Ostertagia, lungworms and fluke.

Schmallenberg appeared on the menu for a while, as did urea figures.

Glanbia, when offering this service to their farmer suppliers, gave the option of having their vet included in the notification loop.

Vets were given access to a portal where they could examine their clients’ analyses on line.

This is an invaluable service to all concerned.

More and more farmers are using milk recording for their cows.

This information is essential in any investigation into a mastitis problem.

No cell count problem can be solved without milk recording.

Lately, beef factories have installed touch screen computers on the factory floor, so that information about the liver, lungs and pregnancy status of each animal can be recorded by the TVI.

This is priceless information to have about your animals.

The Johnes pilot scheme has been running for a few years now, and those who have signed up for it know the value of monitoring, and also the value of the veterinary risk assessment programme that goes with it.

BVD analysis is now available through the ICBF, for investigation into problem herds.

The range of information available is vast, and an invaluable tool in the solving of problems.

A number of our clients get their silage analysed each year.

This lets us predict the nutritional requirements for the herd (cows, pregnant heifers, yearlings etc.) over the winter period.

We can see if what you propose to feed your animals is going to supply their energy, protein and mineral needs.

Herbage and soil analysis packages are offered by specialist laboratories, and these should be used once every three or four years.

Remember that the mineral levels in the soil reflect the levels that appear in the herbage and silage that your animals are eating.

This in turn reflects the levels in the herd.

This will give early warning of future mineral imbalance.

An awful lot of information is available to farmers on different aspects of their farm and their herd.

This information should be used to your advantage.

You should consult your vet and start formulating your herd health plan, using all this available information.

There is no point in picking a piece of silage and smelling it to see what the quality is like, and likewise, there no point in trying to find out which cow is a problem cow by just visual inspection.

While all these analysis services may cost a bit, in the long run, the benefit by far outweighs the outlay.

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