Planning ahead can prevent diseases and increase profitability

Planning is an important part of farming, and when it comes to herd health and disease prevention, having a plan can literally be a lifesaver. Disease outbreaks are devasting both financially and emotionally, and both producers and their herds will benefit from working with their veterinarian to create a herd health plan.

What Is a Herd Health Plan?

“A herd health plan is created in collaboration with a veterinarian who has an established veterinary-client-patient-relationship (VCPR) with the producer and is familiar with the operation. The plan includes breeding schedule, vaccine schedule, deworming schedule, external parasite schedule, nutrition, pasture management and biosecurity,” Dr. Heidi Ward, assistant professor and veterinarian with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, said.

What Should Be Addressed in the Plan?

Some herd health issues are present all the time, whereas other common problems are seasonal.

“Biosecurity is always a year-round threat, especially when new cattle are introduced to the herd. For that reason, new animals should be quarantined for 30 days before allowing them to comingle with the herd. The main diseases of concern are BVD, Tritrichomonas and Johne’s. Cattle can be tested for all three of these diseases prior to introducing to the herd,” Ward said.

The spring and fall are the prime seasons for internal parasites. In the winter, respiratory disease and external parasites such as lice are of main concern due to animals grouping together for warmth. All animals should be immunized with the BVD-IBR-PI3-BRSV vaccine prior to winter.

“In the summer, health threats are associated with heat,” Ward said. “Heat stress alone is common, but heat stress can also worsen death loss from Anaplasmosis. For this reason, shade structures and fly control are essential. If the weather is hot and dry, Blackleg can become a problem. Perilla mint toxicosis is also commonly seen in the summer when forage is scarce and cattle congregate in shaded areas where the plant grows. Water quality is also of concern in the summer as algae growth in water can become toxic.”

Once producers have identified herd health threats, they can work with their veterinarian to create a calendar for their disease prevention program to check and vaccinate accordingly. Some common timelines for health checks, etc. are as follows:

Cows: Pre-breeding and pre-weaning

Bulls: Pre-breeding

Calves: Newborn, mid-nursing and pre-weaning

How Can Producers Record and Carry Out Their Plan?

For tech-savvy producers, there are several digital record keeping programs such as HerdOne or CattleMax, that allow producers to keep track of breeding, medical, inventory and financial records on their computer.

Producers can also purchase record books or download forms from the Internet to assemble in their own books. Record templates can be found in the National Beef Quality Assurance Manual at No matter the format, producers should keep records pertaining to the entire herd (vaccines, deworming, weights, etc.) and individual animals (treatments, medications, etc.) Labels and lot numbers should be recorded in case there is an issue that requires an alternative treatment in case of medication failure. Pharmaceutical companies may cover the cost of diagnostics and/or animal replacement, but will only do so if the producer has a record of the product used.

As producers adhere to their calendar and established protocols, the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service advises that successful herd health programs be evaluated on a regular basis for changes in herd management and to incorporate new information.


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