Reducing disease incidence through herd health plans on dairy farms in the West Midlands

Funding Body
Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE)

Farmer Workshops

Abstract

The aims of this project are to quantify the incidence of disease on dairy farms within the West Midlands and identify the factors influencing the effectiveness of Herd Health Plans.

Description

Monitoring of health on a herd basis has been used by farmers and vets for decades to identify problems on farms and to create health programmes to reduce levels of disease. But the written documents that we refer to as Herd Health Plans (HHPs) are a relatively recent addition from the late 1990’s with the introduction of the National Dairy Farm Assured Scheme, and since then becoming a requirement of many milk buying and herd assurance schemes. HHPs are available in a range of formats and vary in the level of detail required. Whilst HHPs were intended to improve herd health and reduce the occurrences of disease, data on the apparent and real successes or weaknesses of HHPs is limited.

Initially dairy farmer and vet focus groups are being set up to hear different opinions on this subject and to help develop a postal questionnaire which will be distributed to all dairy farmers in the West Midlands. The questionnaire will be used to obtain information on the incidence of common diseases on dairy farms, and the use of and farmer opinions on HHPs and herd health management (HHM). From the information received in these questionnaires, smaller groups of dairy farms will be identified for the second part of the study which will involve farm visits. These visits will provide further details on records that farmers keep and farmer views and motivations towards herd health planning and management.  A lot of work has been carried out and implemented to make human health planning more successful and effective. This is what we are working towards in farm animal health planning. The findings of this project will be relayed back to farmers and vets via the internet and presentations held throughout the West Midlands.

A paper is currently being prepared on the results of the questionnaire.

Project Staff

Publications

S.C.Blease (2013) The dairy farmer-vet relationship: Routine fertility visits; vet qualities and areas for improvement Cattle Practice 20 (2) p162

S.C.Blease, M.C.Behnke, C.M.Brizuela, L.A.Sinclair (2013) Herd health plans for farm assurance: Dairy farmers' opinions Proceedings of the British Society of Animal Science and the Association of Veterinary Teaching and Research Work 4 (1) p012

S.C.Blease, M.C.Behnke, C.M.Brizuela, L.A.Sinclair (2012) Herd health plans: Increasing dairy farmer engagement Cattle Practice 20 (3) p205