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For cattle to reach their performance potential, they must be healthy. A sound health
program will vary from herd to herd. Particular diseases may be prevalent in one herd
or area and be absent in another.
Partnering with a Veterinarian
The first rule to good herd health is disease prevention by developing a vaccine schedule
with a veterinarian. Your veterinarian can also support your beef operation by performing
diagnostic procedures, including necropsy and sample submissions to laboratories.
To find a veterinarian that serves your area, refer to our Food Animal Veterinarian Directory.
Remember that a vaccination program alone shouldn't be considered your complete herd
health program. Effective health management plan includes proper nutrition, parasite
control and a biosecurity plan for your operation.
Biosecurity should be included in every herd health plan. To accomplish this, several
general management practices could be implemented with minimal cost. Simple considerations
include knowing what is in the area of your farm perimeter (e.g. farms, visitors,
neighboring livestock and wildlife), individual animal identification, animal health
protocols, recognizing and dealing with sick animals, supply handling and calf management.
Know the Dangers
Early identification of serious diseases can help minimize the risk of disease spread
on your farm. If signs of disease are identified in an animal, seek veterinary services
immediately. Waiting to treat the sick animal will only allow the spread of the infection
to more animals on the operation. Signs of illness may include coughing, diarrhea,
weight loss, runny eyes or nose, abortions, enlarged lymph nodes and lameness. If
you come across a dead animal, consider having your veterinarian perform a necropsy
to find out what caused the death.
Be Safe Not Sorry
Some diseases can be tested for before you purchase an animal, and disease testing
is one way to eliminate the transfer of a disease to your herd. Livestock buyers should
ask sellers to test animals prior to the sale exchange. However, the buyer needs to
be aware that not all tests are 100 percent accurate. Ask your veterinarian which
diseases he/she would recommend testing for before purchasing an animal. Newly acquired
animals should be held in an isolated area for at least 3 weeks to insure that you
do not introduce unwanted disease into your herd. Isolation includes no fence line
contact, shared water source or feed bunk space with your main herd. Regularly observe
the isolated animals closely for signs of disease.
By implementing a strong herd health program for your operation, disease risk can
be minimized. For more information on disease risk management for your operation,
visit your county Extension office.