‘Disease reduces profits’ – how to ensure good dairy herd health

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) estimates that approximately one-fifth of animal production is lost due to illness.

On Irish farms, disease reduces profits and importantly the well-being of animals.

Ill-health in animals can be caused by infectious agents, such as salmonella species, BVD, Johne’s disease and the like, or by poor management, which can result in mastitis, lameness and other production-related diseases.

Recent Teagasc research has highlighted that the presence of salmonella carriers in a herd can result in annual losses of €11,000 in an unvaccinated 100-cow spring-calving dairy herd.

Vaccinating

Vaccinating has a significant role to play against salmonella and many other diseases. Teagasc has compiled a vaccination and dosing booklet, which allows farmers to strategically plan vaccination and dosing programmes using appropriate products.

Administration procedures for each product have been summarised in the booklet to improve vaccination protocols at farm level – many products are currently being inappropriately or incorrectly administered.

Biosecurity and diagnostic testing are of equal, if not greater, importance in preventing disease introduction.

New diagnostic tools are continuing to be developed to yield greater access to test results, in order to allow informed decision making with regard to herd health.

Combining biosecurity, vaccination and diagnostic testing provides a pathway to disease prevention.

Logical implementation of these strategies will yield the most comprehensive approach to disease control at farm level.

Antibiotic resistance

Antibiotic resistance has been recognised globally as a threat to all of society and dairy farmers can lead the way in prudently reducing antibiotic use.

Optimum hygiene and management can prevent production of diseases and combined disease control strategies for infectious diseases, as outlined above.

It is likely that within the next decade antibiotic use will be restricted on livestock farms. Keeping your herd healthy by other means is becoming increasingly important.

Teagasc, in conjunction with various research partners, both nationally and internationally will continue to generate innovative ways for Irish dairy farmers to maintain the health of their herds.

This will not only contribute to the global requirement for reduced antibiotic use, but will also improve overall farm profitability and livestock welfare.

By Riona Sayers, Teagasc Animal & Grassland Research and Innovation Programme.This article first appeared in the Teagasc publication Today’s Farm.

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