Merck Manual

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Professional Version

Health and Production Management Program


W. Mark Hilton

, DVM, DABVP, Veterinary Clinical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, Purdue University

Reviewed/Revised Apr 2014 | Modified Oct 2022

A cost-effective herd health and production management program is essential for the economic viability of cow-calf operations. Such programs vary by region, relative economics, perceptions, and opportunity. A good herd health program manages risk of disease and lowered productivity at a number of levels, including considerations of biosecurity, nutrition, and the judicious use of biologics and parasiticides.

One starting point for such a program is to identify current production losses by comparing the performance of the particular herd with relevant standards, eg, from regional or national surveys, which can also provide an economic estimate of losses.

The major disease risks for a given herd, along with appropriate preventive measures, should be established in consultation with herd owners. The best times for herd intervention must be identified. These often coincide with other managerial tasks and can be synchronized to minimize herd disruption and labor costs. One approach is to devise a herd-health “calendar” in which the health events are coordinated with major operational events. Interventions for a particular herd vary based on factors such as available labor, normal herd working dates, calf weaning dates, calf management practices, and previous disease problems.

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