1 March 2002

Plus side of health

planning

SUBSTANTIAL savings could be made through planning dairy herd health, according to British Cattle Vet Assocation secretary Carl Padgett.

Addressing delegates at the RABDF conference, Mr Padgett said improving herd health takes time. "When time is spent planning health, improved productivity will be the result. It is all too easy to let jobs such as silaging or lambing get in the way."

The first step towards improving herd health is to record disease, said Mr Padgett. "Many farms have no disease records, but recording can be as simple as writing in a pocket diary or on a card. Ensure farm staff have clear recording criteria, so records are accurate."

Interpretation of health records should be done by a third party such as a vet, he advised. "When producers do it themselves, it is too easy to ignore facts they dont want to face."

Mr Padgett cited an example of two clients of his Bay Vet Group practice in Lancs who experienced mastitis problems in their 100-cow herds. Somatic cell counts ran at 350,000 in both herds, resulting in a 0.5p/litre penalty and bactoscans were 120,000, equivalent to a 1p/litre penalty – a total loss of £26.40/day.

"The first had a herd health plan, recording all mastitis cases, individual cow cell counts and had frozen milk samples from the last 10 cases. The second herd had no case records or samples of recent cases."

Not knowing which cows had high cell counts meant it was less easy for the second herd to dump milk from offending cows. And with no milk samples frozen from recent cases, time had to be spent collecting samples before these could be submitted to the lab, said Mr Padgett.

Herd A was earning £16/day more than herd B, through improved milk volume and quality, two months after mastitis problems were first reported, he calculated.

"No initial data or samples meant herd B was 4-6 weeks behind herd A on milk volume, cell counts and bactoscans."

Taking time to plan dairy herd health could bring substantial savings, says Carl Padgett