Sustainable farming - animal health

animal healthIn a nutshell...

  • Animals that are not healthy are not productive, and they add cost to the business.
  • An animal health problem - whether it is acute or chronic is a good indicator that there is something wrong with overall farm management.
  • This needs investigation as it's not sustainable.
  • Check this by animal health costs per head of stock over the year, and when the peak costs arise.
  • Animal health remedies are expensive - so prevention is always better and cheaper than cures.
  • There is concern that the animal health remedies used in farming, (in particular antibiotics), are causing antibiotic resistance in humans.  Pharmaceutical companies deny this but the debate continues.
  • Sick animals cause serious animal welfare issues by contravening the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

How can you tell if you have a problem?

  • Sick and suffering animals on the farm - and especially in view of the public.
  • Poor stock performance, well below the district average.
  • Stock that show abnormal patters of behaviour, eg they are always anxious to escape to find feed, and they graze much longer than normal, seeking a fill.
  • Poor pastures all the year round.
  • No fertilisers used.
  • Young stock showing ill thrift, especially in autumn.
  • No planned animal health programme.
  • Indiscriminate and uniformed use of animal health remedies.
  • "Off-label" use of animal remedies.
  • No knowledge by staff of withholding periods for drugs.
  • Use of unregistered animal health remedies which is illegal.
  • Cupboards cluttered with old animal remedies that are out of date.
  • Drenches for internal parasites that are not effective - a sign of drench resistance.
  • Animal health remedies not kept in a secure place.
  • No records kept of animal health remedies.
  • Very poor prices obtained for stock presented at saleyards.
  • Unexplained purchase of capital stock replacements to make up numbers.
  • Regular visits of stock disposal operator.

How can you tell if you're doing well?

  • Stock on the farm always looking healthy and contented.
  • No dead stock to be seen anywhere.
  • High levels of stock performance, well above the district average.
  • Young stock in particular that do well and don't show autumn ill thrift.
  • A good fertiliser programme growing healthy productive pasture all year round.
  • Stock that remain in good condition even during drought and in winter.
  • Stock that are fully fed and show normal patterns of behaviour while grazing.
  • No sign of internal parasite drench resistance.
  • All staff very conscious of withholding periods for drugs and exceed them to be sure of avoiding penalties.
  • Low veterinary bills per head of stock.
  • No sign of stocks are animal remedies that have been stockpiled and are out of date.
  • An overall farm animal health programme reviewed with farm veterinarian each year.
  • No particular seasonal peak when vet costs are high.
  • Good prices achieved for all stock (finished or store) offered for sale.
  • No purchases of capital stock to replace losses.
  • Use of registered animal remedies that are kept in a secure place.
  • Comprehensive records kept of all animal remedies use on the farm.

What can you do to improve things?

  • Have an annual review of animal health for your farm with a veterinarian.
  • Be aware of when peak animal health costs occur and work to reduce them.
  • Keep stock well fed and in good condition and this will reduce animal health costs.
  • Use scales to check performance of stock.
  • Keep a detailed diary of all animal health remedies used on the farm.  You will need this for consultations with your vet and to complete documentation when stock are send for slaughter.
  • Be particularly aware of the withholding periods for drugs and exceed them to be sure of avoiding penalties.
  • Be aware of the costs of animal health per head of stock.  Compare this with the district average.
  • Do not stockpile animal remedies that are not needed.
  • Ensure all animal remedies are stored safely and out of the reach of children.
  • Always follow the instructions in the use of animal remedies.
  • Do not use unlicensed animal remedies and beware of using drugs "off label" unless directed by your veterinarian.
  • Pay special attention to general farm hygiene.  All dead stock disposed of rapidly by appropriate means.
  • Don't let trucks visit the farm and deposit accumulated dung and urine from other farms.
  • Make sure visitors from other farms disinfect their boots before visiting your stock.
  • Check that dead and diseased stock do not arrive on your property via waterways.
  • Double fence the boundary to your farm to prevent nose-to-nose and aerosol contact with neighbouring stock.
  • Ensure all staff are trained in the basics of animal health, and in particular are aware of what to do if they suspect exotic disease.
  • Put the exotic disease emergency number up for all to see 0800-809-966.
  • Make sure staff are aware of their responsibilities under the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

Where can you go for help?

  • Regional Councils
  • County Councils
  • Federated Farmers of NZ
  • Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
  • Department of Conservation
  • Animal Health Board
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