A lot of money is spent annually to combat animal diseases outbreaks and eradicate all health threats that may face our herds. Therefore herd health is and will always be an important topic for livestock producers especially with the constant mutations of pathogens and the introduction to new vaccines, wormers, and antibiotics, there is always new information available for livestock producers to access and learn. However, one piece of information that is not imprinted in every producers head is when to give vaccinations or de-worm, or when is the best time of year to vaccinate or de-worm. Keep in mind, it is not easy to remember what vaccinations to give, when to worm, and what supplemental vitamins to give, much less when to give them. This herd health question is often most asked among livestock producers. This could be frustrating especially when you do not have the right knowledge and skills or when sometimes you just do not know what all the fuss is about and decide to overlook some health practices because you do not know their value to your livestock. We will therefore discuss the benefits of a healthy herd.
Being conscious and proactive about your livestock health benefits you in the long run in the sense that if your livestock are in optimum health they are efficient hence high production and big returns for you.
As a livestock owner you keep these animals to sell therefore if they are in good health that reflects well on you because your livestock are your resume so other producers will indeed be interested in doing business with you as you are serious about your produce.
It is way more expensive to deal with the outcome of a compromised herd health than to prevent such incidences. As much as all farmers love their stock imagine letting incidences like the damage caused by ticks and flies to their skin which obviously affect selling and they cannot be used not even for show. Diseases like lumpy skin could make your ‘swan- like’ herd turn into ugly ducklings and they would seem of no use anymore. These are huge losses that only can be dodged by paying much attention to your herd’s health.
Herd health is important as it keeps the farmer on point and on the lookout, any possible threats you would be ready as you have been taking care of your stock’s health. Also your livestock would be in good shape to combat any threat and come out with less mortalities to none as compared to when they have a compromised immune system due to the fact that there has not been any preventative measure in place.
Often management strategies are not forgotten when we talk of herd health. Many producers consider only vaccines, de-wormers, or treatment strategies when developing health programs, but proper management practices can save money through reducing treatment costs, and may ultimately lead to increased profits through increased animal performance.
The most economical way to keep disease and production losses low is prevention rather than treatment. Caring and taking action about your livestock’s health not only reduce the risk of disease in livestock in your farm, but also those coming into the farm. These are some areas to consider:
- Prevent Exposure to Disease. Health status of purchased animals are often times unknown, therefore quarantine procedures should always be carried out to reduce the likelihood of disease introduction into the herd. In intensive farms where increased exposure to disease-causing organisms can occur, a more intensive/thorough prevention programs should be employed.
- Prevent Environment from Becoming Disease Host. Moist, damp areas can become host environments for disease-causing organisms especially since it is summer time and the heat is high. The risk becomes greater in these moist, damp areas where high cattle concentrations occur. These include calving areas, feeding areas, watering areas, low-lying shady areas. Frequent rotation of these areas can reduce the incidence of these organisms from developing.
- Keep Disease Resistance High. Nutrition, vaccination, management, and housing should be properly managed to keep disease resistance high at all times. All of these if managed properly will minimize stress which is critical for building good immunity.
- Observe, Observe, Observe. Never assume your livestock will take care of themselves and that sick cattle will get over it, as some of us that think were tough and do not go to the doctor when feeling bad. Constantly keep an eye on your livestock so that you can pick up on those sick animals immediately. This will increase your chances of preventing the spread of a bad organism.
- If Disease Occurs, Prevent its Spread. When animals are sick, segregate, diagnose, and treat accordingly.
A lot of times we get caught up in the health of our own cattle and don’t realize that when we sell cattle, there is a risk of health problems on the other end of the cattle trade. If you have a herd health plan in place, then the incidence of sickness in the cattle you sold will be low for that buyer. However, if you don’t then there will likely be health problems that the buyer will deal with after he purchases and transports your cattle home. The person buying your animals should have the same preventative herd health plan in place in order to reduce the incidence of sickness in his herd.
If you currently do not have a herd health plan in place, consult with your local veterinarian and get one implemented. Herd health plans provide a routine, planned procedure for minimizing or preventing diseases. Let us take the health of our livestock seriously looking at the amount of money we spend on purchasing them. As expensive as they are, all bases should be covered especially the health aspect.
- Mushi E.Z. Binta M.G. Chabo R.G. and Modisa L. (1999). Diseases of goats in Botswana. Government Printer, Gaborone. Botswana.ISBN-99912-1-331-7