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Health Planning

24 December 2015

Income and profits in the beef and sheep sectors will depend on attention to detail and technical efficiency. Spending a little time identifying areas which need attention is an extremely worthwhile exercise. A starting point for this would be designing a health plan for your livestock enterprises.

A health plan does not have do be an onerous task, more an ongoing review which requires decision making and a measurement of risk. It is a tool which can prevent loss of production, poor performance and safeguard profits. It covers every level of disease/infection that could cause a negative effect to the herd/flock from highly infectious diseases e.g. Schmallenberg to everyday problems such as lameness and mastitis.

Many producers will have a health plan in place to some extent to satisfy quality assurance requirements, but time should be spent to measure the levels of risk and disease on your holding. Once this is done, a plan can be created to prevent and minimise the level of risk on the unit which in turn will improve performance and profitability. This could include elements such as general husbandry (foot care, etc.), timings and use of routine vaccinations and worming, biosecurity procedures, strategies for bought in stock, measuring the risk and setting targets/benchmarks for your business. An example of setting benchmarks could include:

A target weaning percentage of 95% over 100 cows

Target: 95% weaning = 95 calves

Actual: 85% weaning = 85 calves

Target: Market calf at £2.5/kg at 350kg
95 x £875 = £83,125

Actual: Market calf at £2.5/kg at 350kg
85 x £875 = £74,375

Over 100 cows £87.50/head

Your vet should be involved with creating your health plan, as an ongoing process. The starting point for a successful health plan is a belief and open mind to move your herd/flock forward to improve performance.

Kirsten Williams, Beef & Sheep Consultant, SAC Consulting

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