dairymen taking A far more serious look at herd health
Advances in sampling will give farmers far more information when tackling various diseases
Herd health has moved very close to the top of the list of priorities for dairy farmers. This whole issue is receiving unprecedented attention at discussion group meetings and monitor farm walks in 2010. Indeed, as the year has progressed farmers are asking more and more questions.
They are asking more and more questions because they are getting more and more information through bulk milking sampling. Advances in technology have enabled more accurate and better information to be gleaned from bulk milk samples.
In bulk milk samples, one is usually looking for the presence of antibodies against the presence of the virus. The level of antibodies found gives an indication of how severe the disease threat in their herd.
Many dairy farmers have signed up to various herd health programmes run by service providers to the dairy industry. AI companies are to the fore here. Herd health programmes usually involve taking three bulk milk samples evenly spread throughout the course of lactation. It is important that the samples are spread over the lactation, as antibody levels can vary from some diseases through the year. Taking a minimum of three samples should give you a good idea of the level of viruses circulating in your dairy herd.
Knowing that viruses are circulating in your dairy herd is one thing, but what option do you take on the strength of the information you now have.
The obvious question is do you now vaccinate for the viruses that are circulating in your herd or do you leave well enough alone? Once you start a vaccination programme there is no going back. Vaccines are expensive and they are time consuming when they have to be administered.
So, today in a bulk milk sample, you can test for the presence of antibodies against IBR, BVD, Salmonella, Neospora, Leptospirosis, round worms, lung worms and liver fluke. Rumen (stomach) fluke are identified via a faecal sample.
That's quite a list and it is an indictment of our poor attitude to herd health over the past 15 years. Some countries, particularly the Scandinavian states, have eliminated some of the viruses from their dairy cow population through targeted herd health programmes. Ireland and our friends across the water have done nothing in this regard.