Developing herd health programs for cow-calf operations can be time consuming but rewarding for both the producer and the
veterinarian if done appropriately. However, many producers think of a herd health program as only a vaccine program. Interestingly,
the vaccination schedule and the vaccines that will be used constitute the smallest portion of a true herd health program.
If a producer were to use Google as means of determining a herd health program for his/her farm, this producer would find
over 95,000 hits describing beef cattle herd health programs.
According to all study years of National Animal Health Monitoring Service (NAHMS 1992-2007), veterinarians have been identified
by the highest percentage of operations as a very important source of information. Veterinarians were not only considered
very important sources for general information, but our profession is also considered to be very important for breeding and
genetic information. In the 2007 NAHMS, approximately one-half of all operations consulted a veterinarian for some reason
during the previous 12 months, and larger producers (>200 cows) had more interactions with veterinarians (82.2% of operations)
as compared to operations with fewer than 50 cows (43.2%).
Veterinarians are in unique position to aid in a farm specific program for the herd. However, it is imperative that the veterinarian
understands the goal(s) of the producer. Without this understanding of the true goals of the farm, it is impossible to develop
a rewarding program that benefits all parties. Where the producer falls on the continuum of whether the operation is only
for fun or only for money makes a large difference in how the program should be designed.
Research reveals that many factors play a role in the decisions on the farm regarding the adoption of practices identified
as best management practices within the industry. These interests/goal such as education of the producer, age of the producer,
off farm income as % of total income, size of farm and many others play a critical role, and veterinarians must understand
this to effectively aid in developing a herd health plan for farm.
Additionally, there are many factors that influence the profitability of the farm. As seen in the chart listed below, veterinary/medicine
expenses are rarely the deciding factor as to whether the farm is profitable. However, it does reveal areas where veterinarians
must spend some time educating themselves, so we remain a valuable resource for producers.
KS Beef Cow-calf Enterprise Returns and Costs, 2004-2008 (minimum of three years)
Dhuyvetter, Langemeir 2010 Kansas State
Veterinarians will not commonly be seen as expert regarding the categories listed as other or machinery, but veterinarians
can play a crucial role in helping with feed costs, labor management, and potentially capital investments (interest).
As seen in many publications, how healthy a herd is depends on a complex interaction with host (cow or calf), environment,
and disease causing organisms. When this "triad" becomes out of balance, there can be a negative impact on the health of
the animal. Fortunately or unfortunately, most of this balance relates directly to appropriate husbandry and management decisions
made by the producer and ultimately individuals providing that advice. The ultimate goal of a herd health program is to provide
the producer with tools that allow them to quickly and efficiently identify a problem and more importantly prevent that problem
from occurring again.