Building blocks for animal health

Most farmers would likely agree, it would be great if someone handed them a quick guide containing every best kept secret in the business. The daily challenges and constant unknowns in farming, make it a tough profession to master. Despite the seemingly complicated nature of the business, livestock experts agree there are some simple universal management strategies essential for overall animal health. 

Record Keeping: Carving out time dedicated to documenting animal health information can save producers headaches in the long run. Keeping animal health records enables producers to accurately monitor symptoms, document prevention measures and record treatments.  Experts recommend producers keep records of current animals and request written health records for purchases. “This emphasizes the need to purchase from known sources with good health protocols,” Rosslyn Biggs, DVM, assistant clinical professor, director of continuing education and beef cattle extension specialist at Oklahoma State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, said.

Know Your Veterinarian: Producers need to make sure they have established a good relationship with a veterinarian prior to calling on the veterinarian’s help in the case of an emergency. The veterinarian should be familiar with the producer and the producer’s livestock operation. 

A solid relationship with a local veterinarian is critical to optimal herd or flock health. “Due to the lack of veterinarians in many areas, unless you have a good veterinary-client-patient-relationship and are in good financial standing with the veterinary practice, producers may find that a veterinarian will not see them,” Biggs explained.

Biggs said producers may want to consider sitting down with their veterinarian to develop goals and to create a plan to minimize health issues. 

Basic Animal Husbandry: Though many producers may think there is a secret to herd health success, livestock experts state sticking to the basics goes a long way in maintaining a thriving herd. “Many animal owners want a magic medication to fix disease when the basics of animal husbandry: clean water, adequate nutrition, biosecurity, shelter, and choosing genetics suitable to your operation environment make a tremendous impact,” Biggs explained. 

 The emphasis on proper nutrition is of utmost importance this time of year. “In cold weather, animals are expending a lot more energy to keep warm,” Bryan Kutz, Ph.D., professor in the Animal Science Department at the University of Arkansas, explained. Though producers may not forget about proper nutrition, at times they may underestimate how important it is to optimal animal health. 

Vaccinations: A consistent vaccination program can keep severe illness at bay. Depending on the age and type of animals in a producer’s operation, annual vaccinations may be necessary. In addition, during particular production stages, animals may require additional vaccines. 

For example, Kutz recommends producers should make sure pregnant ewes receive vaccination for clostridium perfringens types C, D and tetanus, two to four weeks prior to lambing. “It is basically an overeating disease, but it is a passive immunity that they get and pass on to their babies through that first 24 hours of colostrum,” Kutz said. “It is extremely important that pregnant ewes get vaccinated two to four weeks prior to lambing, so they can pass that immunity on to their babies.”

Practicing Good Biosecurity: Biosecurity basics make up another building block for healthy animals. One biosecurity measure includes testing animals for diseases of concern prior to purchasing them. Additionally, isolating animals when they arrive at the farm or ranch. Recently, Beef Quality Assurance added to its website fillable templates that help producers develop plans.


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