The NFU’s animal health and welfare adviser, Rebecca Veale, explains why health planning for your farm can be easier than you think.
Health plans should be a live document that provides a framework of the ways in which a farmer can prevent or deal with key disease challenges in the herd or flock, but with the flexibility so that they can respond to the things that are more difficult to plan for.
Any time is a good place to start but now is a good time to think about planning ahead of next breeding season and making sure that this year’s crop stays in good health.
Sitting in front of a blank screen can be a really difficult way to start. You could use a template as your basis (your vet, adviser or consultant may be able to help). But ultimately you have to make this your document, so keep evolving with what works best for you.
Here are some questions which you can ask to get started…
The answers to these questions will help you formulate your plan. Some people write out a health plan like a calendar, others may split out the different groups of animals or look at things by specific issues such as parasites – work out whichever way is best and appropriate for you.
This is one document that advice should be sought for. Farm Assurance schemes will require your vet to sign it off anyway but do ask for their input when pulling it together.
Think about what have you had to call them out for over the past few years, were any of those problems preventable or could you try a different tactic?
Do they run a flock or herd health club or packages that would provide you with more time with your vet and potentially other farmers in the area?
Obtain any feedback you can from the abattoir and if there have been problems look at the batches of stock affected, the grazing management and any issues to try and spot a pattern. With CCIR there will be more information in the long-term but in the interim ask the abattoir what information they can share.
Suitable Qualified Persons (known as an SQP or Animal Medicines Adviser) have a qualification which legally permits them to prescribe and supply certain medicines, anthelmintics for instance. The merchants, country stores and vets will all have qualified SQPs that are trained to advise on the appropriate treatments, tests you could use and administration.
They have a wealth of knowledge and don’t charge for their time so make sure you use them! Find out more about SQPs on the AMTRA website.
Consultants, nutritionists and other paraprofessionals that come on farm can also help, ask them their thoughts on specific problems, if there is a pattern in the challenges, what can you do differently that might mitigate these problems? Make sure you use the resources that are already on farm.