Good farm management practices
Ensure adequate immunity
- Make sure calves receive adequate colostrum at birth. It is recommended that calves receive 3 litres of colostrum within the first two hours of birth or 8.5% of their birth body weight in colostrum. See Colostrum Management, AHI and Feeding the New-born (PDF), Teagasc Calf Rearing Manual for more details.
- Be proactive - use a good vaccination programme. Discuss with your vet to decide which programme is most suitable for your farm.
- Ensure an appropriate, nutritionally-balanced, high-quality diet is fed. Dairy calves should be fed a daily amount of at least 15% of their birth weight in whole milk or high quality milk replacer mixed at 125g/L water. See AHI guide “Early nutrition and weaning of the Dairy Calf for details.
- High-quality, clean and palatable starter concentrates should be offered from early on, to promote development of the rumen.
- Calves should have free access to clean water at all times.
- Feed cows a high quality, nutritionally-balanced diet. See Feeding the Dairy Cow, Teagasc Dairy Manual, Feeding the Suckler Cow, Concentrate Feeds and Feed Options for Finishing Cattle, Teagasc Beef Manual for more information.
- Monitor the body condition score (BCS) of cows regularly to ensure cows are at the appropriate BCS for their stage of lactation. See Feeding the Dairy Cow, Teagasc Dairy Manual and Feeding the Suckler Cow, Teagasc Beef Manual for more details.
Minimise stress to animals
Continued stress will depress the animal's immune system and render them more susceptible to disease.
Stress factors include:
- Poor ventilation/drafts
- Sudden changes to diet
- Temperature fluctuations
- Abrupt weaning
- Mixing of social groups (i.e. introducing heifers to milking herd)
- Poor stockman ship/rough handling
- Disbudding without local anaesthetic/analgesia
Minimise the risk of exposure to bacteria, viruses and parasites
- Practice good personal hygiene. Keep boots clean and regularly disinfect waterproof leggings etc.
- Have footbaths in place on farm.
- A broad spectrum disinfectant should be used regularly to clean and sterilise sheds, pens, gates and feeders.
- Pens should be kept well bedded and bedding should be dry.
- Sheds also need to be well ventilated.
- Ensure an effective parasite control program is in place on your farm. See AHI published guides on parasite control for detailed information.
Create a herd health plan
- Develop a protocol with your veterinary practitioner on the best practise to protect the health of animals on your farm.
- Your veterinary practitioner will do a risk assessment and advise you on a programme of preventative health care (including a vaccination and anthelmintic program, lameness-prevention plan etc.) that is appropriate for your farm –Herd Health Plan.
- Regularly monitor animal health to allow early intervention – discuss the methods to monitor animal health with your vet. These could include bulk milk/blood sampling to test for infectious diseases, keeping detailed records of all illnesses and treatments, mobility scoring cows to detect lameness at an early stage, and regular body condition scoring to ensure optimal nutritional status.