'The vet still calls out, but I have a bit more money in my pocket'
Six years ago Cork farmer Dick O'Neill sat down with his vet and nutritionist and decided to do something about the health of animals on his farm.
He milks 260 cows in Cork, and told the recent Cattle Association of Veterinary Ireland conference that his is a run-of-the mill farm when it comes to animal health.
"Six years ago I sat down with my vet and nutritionist and looked at dosing, vaccinations and other problems and set down a co-ordinated approach about what we could do with the timings of vaccines.
"We were already spending the money before we started this, we were administrating the vaccines and dosing the animals.
"So we didn’t have to invest more money. But it was the time to organise and plan ahead so we get the best response from the vaccines."
According to Dick, it took just a two-hour meeting to go through the health of the herd.
"Issues we had were not any different to other farmers - we had scours, milk fever, mastitis - all fairly run of the mill stuff."
The farm, he said, was also vaccinating for calf scour, but to get the value of this you need to not feed the calves with cows' milk for three weeks.
"If you have a cow with Johne's one of the best ways to transfer it is to feed the milk to the calf.
"It took 2-3 years to iron that out but we have no issues now with calf health and that’s a bonus for us."
He also said that the timing of vaccines was off in some cases. "We were treating calves for pneumonia in spring and then putting them out to grass - those vaccines were moved to the autumn before housing and we have better results."
According to Dick, his vet Gerry Crowley initially floated the idea with him, but it was up to him to decide to go ahead with the plan .
"A vet can't shove it down the farmers throat, the farmer has to be willing to take it on board. It has a better buy in if the farmer is fully on board."
Now, Dick sits down with his vet and nutritionist every October for two hours and looks at how things worked over the previous 12 months and what they will change and implement.
"There is always something you can do better or a new problem but the problems we get now are simple enough to deal with.
"You are not fighting fires anywhere, everything is pretty structured.
"The vet still calls out and spends time on the farm, but I have a bit more money in my pocket due to less sicknesses on the farm."
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