An overview of five of the top areas to consider when realizing good herd health.

1. Vaccination:
Vaccination programs by themselves shouldn’t be considered the complete herd health program.  They should be viewed as an important part of an effective health management plan.  Although the herd health needs will vary between operations, there are a few standard vaccines that should be included every year before the breeding season begins.   Among these are IBR, BVD, Lepto, and Vibriosis.  Each of these diseases can lead to reproductive inefficiency and loss of profitability in a cowherd.   Another disease that should be vaccinated for in replacement heifers is Brucellosis (Bang’s).  Heifers should be vaccinated between 4 and 12 months of age for this disease.

2. Nutrition:
Supporting herd health with proper nutrition is essential.  Maintaining cows in a body condition score of 6 going into the calving season will insure good calf health and speedy breed backs.  It has been show that cows that calve in a body condition of about 6 have a 92 percent breed back rate during the 90 day period required to keep a cow calving on a yearly schedule.  If she was in a body condition of 5 then breed back rate drops to about 80 percent, and a BCS of 4 allows only a 60 percent breed back rate.  

3. Biosecurity:
Performing simple biosecurity steps will help decrease the likelihood of a disease outbreak on your farm. Remember to control vehicle and visitor access to animal areas to limit possible spread of disease.  Always wash your hands, as well as change your clothing and boots after returning from a fair, sale, show, or another farm before tending your own cattle.  Try to maintain a closed farm, if possible — that is, avoid bringing animals from outside sources onto your farm.  Furthermore, if you do bring in new cattle, try to transport them in your own trailer, isolate them from your main herd, and observe them for illness for a 30 day quarantine period. 

4. Cow Culling:
Managing culling decisions will impact the future herd performance and profitability. Many factors should be considered when choosing which cows to put on the cull list with the most important factor likely being pregnancy status.  It is also important to recognize other red flags that make a cow a candidate for the cull list.  Factors such as poor calf performance, lameness, bad eyes, or poor disposition are also important considerations.

5. Bull Management:
Yearly breeding soundness evaluations are imperative for every bull that will be turned out with cows during the breeding season.  In order to count on a large percentage of the cows being pregnant at the end of the breeding season, you have to start with a reproductively sound bull.  The national average for bulls that fail a breeding soundness evaluation is somewhere between 10 and 20 percent.
In a herd that has a large percentage of cows that are open, many expert's first thought is there is a bull problem.


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