Disease management on a dairy farm: Testing, Vaccinating, Culling, and Keeping a Closed Herd

Managing and preventing disease on a dairy farm is a continuous effort. A UK farmer shares his key strategies for optimizing his herds health in this video Optimising herd health – Managing disease  

The first key measure is to run a closed herd – no cattle are brought onto the farm, not even bulls. This is even more important in this part of England due to endemic Bovine Tuberculosis (TB)Using farm software, the farmer can mark out cows that have had an Inconclusive Result (IR) for TB and ensure they are not bred from and do not stay on the farm long, potentially spreading disease.  

Leptospirosis – a zoonotic disease that can infect humans – has also been an issue in the past so all adult cows and heifers are vaccinated for this every February before turnout. Another infectious disease that affects many dairy farms in Europe is Bovine Viral Diarrhoea virus (BVD)After 2 years of BVD testing calves through the Tag and Test system and blood testing heifers, this farm is now on the national BVD eradication scheme and registered as free from BVD but continuously monitoring via bulk milk tank tests.  They do not vaccinate against BVD currently, but care is taken to keep a barrier between their cattle and neighboring cattle due to BVD outbreaks on neighboring farms. The final disease that this farmer is acting upon is Johnes. After a recent clinical case (tip of the iceberg!), this farm has been more vigilant to Johnes and test the whole herd twice yearly. Affected cows are culled out but are often the poor performing animals anyway showing more lameness, high cell counts or poor fertility.