Poor fertility is a huge cost to the dairy industry as a whole, but preventing and reducing disease can make a big difference to conception rates.
The impact of disease on fertility in dairy herds should not be underestimated, according to veterinary surgeon Oli Hodgkinson, of Trefaldwyn Vets, Montgomery.
He says: “After 365 days every additional day a cow is not in-calf can cost £5 in lost milk production etc, so for a 100-cow herd, that is £500, which adds up to a huge amount over time.
“Healthy cows are more fertile cows, so preventing disease and eradicating existing diseases will go a long way to improving fertility.
“All diseases have an impact, but particularly BVD, leptospirosis, IBR and salmonellosis, along with mastitis and lameness.
“TB is a big problem for some of my clients at the moment. Not being able to sell stock means they are overcrowded, which has the knock-on effect of increasing the disease challenge, which consequently impacts on fertility.”
Mr Hodgkinson stresses that the starting point for disease prevention is not bringing it onto the farm, preferably by keeping a closed herd and having robust biosecurity controls in place.
However, if stock is bought-in, it should be sourced from herds with a known health status and kept in quarantine on arrival.
He says: “Knowing what diseases you are dealing with is crucial before you start to tackle them and this does not need to be too difficult or expensive.
A bulk milk sample is a very cost-effective way of monitoring for a number of diseases.
Putting plans in place to eradicate existing disease, alongside implementing vaccination programmes, will improve overall herd health and fertility.”
Disease? Not On My Farm! ambassador Fraser Jones has first-hand experience of the cost of disease on fertility.
He says: “When we had problems with BVD, the scanning rate was 30-40%, but now we are on top of this, it is about 60-70%.
Although we had previously been vaccinating for BVD, it was a bit hit-and-miss, with some animals being vaccinated late and others being missed.
“We put a new vaccination strategy in place with specific timings which ensures nothing gets missed. Calves are also snap tested for BVD.
“It has taken a while to eradicate BVD, but doing so made a huge difference and proves the benefit of correct vaccination protocols.
With hindsight, we should have blood-tested everything at the start, which would have given us the same result, but been quicker. I would advise anyone who has a problem with BVD to do this.
“It might seem a big expense, but it is worth it. You eradicate the disease so much quicker, resulting in improved profit by better fertility and herd health.”
However, Mr Jones believes herd health and disease prevention starts with ensuring calves get sufficient good quality colostrum straight after birth.
He says: “Colostrum management is key to having healthy animals with good fertility coming into the herd. If an animal is a poor-doer as a calf, because of a lack of colostrum, problems stay with it for life.
“Even though we have good colostrum protocols in place, we still do random checks on calves for failure of passive transfer, just to make sure things have not slipped at busy times. It gives me peace of mind to know the system is working.”
This article is part of a ‘Disease? Not On My Farm!’ series which showcases proactive beef and dairy farmers taking pride in their robust herd health and disease management approach.
This information was provided by MSD Animal Health, makers of Bovilis® BVD, Bovilis® IBR Marker Live, Bovilis® IBR Marker Inac, Leptavoid™ H, Rotavec® Corona, Halocur®, Bovilis® Bovipast RSP, Bovilis® Huskvac and Bovilis® Ringvac. Always use medicines responsibly. More information is available from Intervet UK Ltd trading as MSD Animal Health. Registered office Walton Manor, Walton, Milton Keynes MK7 7AJ, UK. Registered in England & Wales no. 946942. T: 01908 685 685 E: email@example.com W: www.msd-animal-health.co.uk.