While producers can see a set of symptoms that are consistent with a previous case, they could easily be the result of a different bug that won’t respond to the same treatment used last time.
By Doug Scholz, DVM, director of veterinary services, Novartis Animal Health
When cows get sick, producers lose money. That’s why when it comes to herd health, prevention is always the best—and most cost-effective—strategy. A good vaccination program, coupled with sound nutrition and a sanitary environment, is much more economical than treating and tending to sick cows in the milking string or hospital pen. But even well-managed herds with rigorous health protocols will have an occasional bout of illness.
How those sick cattle are treated can also have a huge impact on the overall profitability of the operation. For instance, with a prompt and accurate diagnosis producers can start the correct course of treatment to quickly get cattle back to full health and productivity. On the other hand, when producers employ a trial and error treatment approach, without the benefit of diagnosis, it’s akin to firing blind and usually results in wasted money, wasted labor and prolonged recovery.
Part of the problem facing producers is that there’s a common set of symptoms that occur with a wide variety of cattle illnesses. Reduced appetite, fever, lethargy, diarrhea, and reproductive failure can all be caused by dozens of different bacterial and viral pathogens. And what works for some doesn’t necessarily work for others.
So while producers can see a set of symptoms that are consistent with a previous case, they could easily be the result of a different bug that won’t respond to the same treatment used last time.
The best economic decision producers can make is to seek assistance from the herd veterinarian to develop an effective vaccination program that will prevent problems before they ever have a chance to develop.
The veterinarian is the foremost authority on diseases that surface in the area, with the local knowledge to design a vaccination program that targets diseases most likely to affect cows on any particular operation.
Producers who work closely with their veterinarian on disease prevention programs not only minimize the need for treatment in the first place, but reduce treatment costs when cattle do get sick.
In the event that cattle get sick, producers can reduce false starts in treatment by seeking assistance from the herd veterinarian to get the right diagnosis and corresponding treatment.
Treatment costs vary widely and many producers think they need the most expensive antibiotics. But diseases like footrot and pinkeye can be treated just as effectively with long-acting tetracycline at minimum cost, if they’re caught early.
A common denominator among the most profitable dairy operations is an active and ongoing partnership with the herd veterinarian to control health issues as efficiently as possible and minimize the need for treatment.