Modern dairy cow farming has evolved over the years. As the farming techniques change, dairy farms are now inclined towards production efficiency. One of the secrets behind dairy cattle profitability has been the ability to maintain top of the range dairy herd health management.
The goal of dairy herd health management is ensuring optimal care and cattle well-being. This not only boosts dairy productivity but also reduces dairy losses. A herd management program is normally structured in consultation with the herd veterinarian. It is designed in such a way that it will be keyed with dairy herd visits, reproductive examinations, and review of performance records.
Scheduled Dairy Farm Visits
Dairy farm visits are not only necessary but are very vital to the growth and sustainability of the farm. In a farm with less than a hundred animals, a single visit per week is enough. These visits will increase as the number of cows increase.
Farm visits can be categorized into four broad categories; technical visits, emergency and individual animal care, quality control visits and training and analytical visits. All these visits are necessary and should be undertaken on the right time.
Traditional, Scheduled And Technical Visits
These are visits that are planned ahead of time. Normally, they will be reproductive examination visits. The sustainability of the herd is pegged on reproductive success. These visits are aimed at identifying productive and unproductive cattle.
Non-pregnant animals are returned to the farm’s breeding program. It is important to generate data to aid in determination of success or failure of the dairy breeding program.
On small dairy farms, the veterinary will only make routine visits for treatment. These visits include IV injections, vaccinations or dehorning. These are tasks that may not be performed by farm staff and require the attention of the veterinary or technician.
Emergency And Individual Cow Health Care Visits
Much as the better part of the herd may be well and healthy, there are some animals that will require close supervision. These are animals that are prone to diseases. Such animals require individual attention.
Frequent visits to the farm allow the vet to assess the herd’s overall health. These visits are quite vital in the identification of infections and diseases. The earlier the disease is detected, the easier it will be to treat and manage it.
Ideally, a dairy health management program should include a system to detect cattle whose performance is below expectations. High risk dairy cows should receive special attention. This should include monitoring the cow’s temperature, rumen activity, sleeping and eating habits.
Analytic And Training Visits
These are visits that will only be effective if there’s a good system. This is a system that should capture all the activities and their results. The collected information enables analysis and decision making for ongoing revision.
The dairy herd health management system should include these visits to allow the farmer and the veterinary discuss dairy management issues. Set specific training sessions if the dairy farm relies on hired professionals.
Training visits are very beneficial to the dairy farm. They give the farm personnel an opportunity to learn the standard treatment procedures for the common diseases. They also come in handy in the scheduling of treatment plans.
Quality Control Visits
These are visits aimed at ensuring performance consistency. They are focused more on management processes such as milking management, young stock management and nutrition management. Housing and environment quality control visits may also be factored.
Milk management is considered to the standard element of dairy farm quality control programs. This makes it necessary to perform important tasks such as teat scoring and milking routines. These should be done at-least four times (quarterly) per year.
One of the crucial training that should be done is that on mastitis treatment. The dairy farm personnel need to be trained on how to screen for mastitis. The screening should be done on heifers, dry cows and fresh cows. The veterinary should also teach them how to perform a California Mastitis test. Cow udder quarters that show signs of mastitis should be submitted for culture.
The quality of a dairy herd is determined at the early development stage. New born calves and young replacement heifers need specialized care. These are the future of the dairy herd. They are placed away from lactating cows and the veterinary should ensure that the farm personnel are well versed with the feeding rations and procedures.
Generally, the quality control visits should be able to address all areas pertaining dairy cow health. These visits should be able to establish if quality standards are met in udder cleanliness, housing conditions, hock and hoof lesions and herd walkabouts.
A successful herd health management program requires proper record keeping. The records should be well maintained and should capture all aspects of the cows’ health. One of the sure ways one ensuring success is having cow collars, ear tags and branding. Transponders or neck and ankle straps may also be used to identify cows electronically.
Data collection should be done at all stages of the cow’s growth. The farm should ensure that proper records in calving, breeding, milking, treatment; culling and other crucial stages are maintained.
Data analysis is vital in cow health management cycles. Properly maintained records can be accessed electronically with computerized systems such as Dairy Herd Improvement system. Monitoring programs such as hand-written cards and on-farm computer program may also be used.
Cow Health And Production Problem Investigation
Health problems are a norm in dairy farms. They will attack regardless of the efforts put to manage dairy animals’ health. Dairy herd health management incorporates surveillance programs. These are programs aimed at detecting diseases and health problems beforehand.
Dairy cow health investigation goes a long way in curbing considerable costs associated with treating cow diseases. The health systems help in investigation of outbreaks, effects of drugs and disease prevalence.
Every dairy farmer needs to have a clear understanding of their herd health and the challenges faced. Ongoing scientific advancements have been very instrumental in enabling farmers understand their animals’ health.
It’s now easy for farmers to identify diseases, understand different vaccines and their usage and the solution to various health challenges. Though there are numerous dairy health challenges today, you are now better equipped to handle them. We have gone an extra mile to discuss some of the common cow diseases and health challenges. We hope that our research will help you run a healthy dairy farm and boost your production and productivity.