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Herd Health

There are three primary methods of improving profitability in livestock farming: 

  1. Increase productivity
  2. Decrease losses, or
  3. Develop new markets.

A properly designed and implemented herd health programme will allow all three.

A photo of cows in a fieldElimination of diseases such as Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) and Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR) is a crucial part of all herd health improvement schemes.

It is very important to realise that it is possible to make profound changes in herd immunity very quickly using these techniques. Changing the balance of any disease in a herd runs risks of its own and must be done very carefully.

It has to be stressed that a herd health programme must be approached in its entirety ? it is potentially financially very wasteful and possibly downright counterproductive if issues such as biosecurity, vaccination, etc are not addressed.

Biosecurity is a big word for a very simple idea.

It involves keeping "clean and healthy" cattle completely separate from all potential sources of infection or disease.
It also involves a lot of common sense.

Work through the "How's my biosecurity (pdf 137Kb) " sheets and discuss with your vet the reasons why each point might be important to your herd.

Animals regularly enter and leave most herds in Ireland. Each Irish herd health plan must take account of this so that animals can be bought-in (pdf 121Kb) , traded and culled (pdf 65Kb) . As bulls are central to the health of any breeding herd, special emphasis is required when buying a bull (pdf 122Kb) .

You can't operate a herd health plan without records (pdf 67Kb) . Be they paper or computer based, they have to be accurate, organised and relevant to your herd health plan. Talk to your vet about keeping your records concise and useful.

One of the primary and most effective tools available to fight viral diseases such as BVD and IBR in farm animals is vaccination (pdf 114Kb) . However vaccination alone is rarely a magic bullet and care must be taken to maximise its effectiveness.

The testing or screening regime used is specific to the disease. Different techniques must be used to ensure testing is focussed on the animals most at risk and to minimise costs. For BVD, discuss  whole herd screening (pdf 221Kb)  with your vet and how samples such as  bulk milk (pdf 85Kb)  can be valuable to your herd health plan.

For IBR, discuss whole herd screening (pdf 80Kb)  with your vet and how samples such as bulk milk (pdf 85Kb)  can be valuable to your herd health plan.

A photo of cows in a field

As the science improves, these guidelines will be updated. If you can see a better way of doing anything listed here, contact Virology, CVRL and we will be glad to listen.