29 August 1997

PREVENTION CUTS BILLS

Its a well documented – and much-lamented – fact that margins in all livestock sectors are likely to be squeezed this year.

Falling milk prices, depressed beef prices, and tumbling finished lamb returns point the way to reduced profits for the entire industry.

That, in turn, increases pressure to find ways of further cutting costs where inputs may already be running at optimum levels.

One area where producers could benefit is health care; the vet and medicine bill can account for a hefty proportion of variable costs.

The difficulty, particularly while animals are housed, is that high stocking densities, stress, and less than ideal ventilation combine to provide an ideal breeding ground for disease to spread, with pneumonia being a classic example.

For many herds, the cost of a pneumonia outbreak runs to much more than the thousands of pounds spent on vaccination and antibiotics. The increase in finishing time, besides escalating cost, is an undesirable burden since the introduction of the over thirty month scheme.

In this supplement, a Scottish vet explains how to counter pneumonia by better management in the run-up to housing, and how this has helped his producer clients in practice.

By the same token, designing a preventative health plan, and sticking to it, allows the Welsh Institute to successfully run several high health flocks.

Preventative health may not be the sexiest of subjects and it can take persistence. But as stories in this supplement show, it does pay. As margins continue to slide, a targeted approach to health care could be one of the keys to helping maintain profits across all livestock sectors.