Editor''s Notebook

March 22, 2009 07:00 PM

Kim Watson
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so the saying goes. And with animal health, like human health, preventive measures typically cost less and have better results compared to treating after a disease is evident. In addition, research and record analysis show that keeping the herd healthy improves efficiency and reduces the overall cost of production.

Vaccinating cattle is one tool to help boost herd immunity and curb costly diseases. But vaccinations are not a "one-shot” approach to keeping the herd healthy.

Several of the veterinarians that I talked to this past month say vaccines are not a silver bullet but rather should be part of an overall herd health program for keeping a variety of diseases at bay. Other elements for boosting immunity include proper nutrition and herd management. All the elements work together to keep your herd efficient.

Doctor's orders. Vaccinations may not be effective in raising the herd's immunity if booster recommendations are not followed. Depending on the vaccine, giving one shot when a booster is required may not fully protect your cattle. To get the most from vaccine products, be sure to follow up with recommended doses beyond that initial vaccination. Follow all vaccine label instructions. Also consult Beef Quality Assurance guidelines on where and how to give injections in order to reduce the chance for injection-site blemishes.

One of the best tips is to work with your veterinarian to build an overall herd health program. Don't just rely on your veterinarian to come in and treat cattle when they are sick or injured, but rather seek his or her input to create a plan of action to prevent disease. Share herd records to help find where animal health issues could be eating away at potential profits.

A small price. What producers spend on animal health and veterinarian expenses is a small portion of total cow costs. Integrated resource management and standardized performance analysis data from Texas AgriLife Extension shows that of 71 herds in a four-year period, veterinary and breeding expenses ranked 9th out of the top 21 expenses and averaged 4.4% of total cost. This is not an area where you should cut back—instead, look closely to see if your expenses are going to treatment or prevention.

You can find additional animal health information and tips at the Beef Today Web site in the Cattlemen's Notebook section under "Animal Health.” Updated regularly, we also include these tips in our biweekly eNewsletter, Beef Today's Cattle Drive. You can sign up for that at www.beeftoday.com.

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