Practical experiences using myhealthyherd for herd health planning - Veterinary Practice
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Practical experiences using myhealthyherd for herd health planning

PETER ORPIN explains how RDA funding is helping to develop health management on farms

VETERINARY practices servicing
farms in the West Midlands have an
opportunity to expand the horizons
of their health management on
farms using funding from the RDA.
This article describes how we have
used the process to further develop
our health management with our

The Advantage
health planning
process has been
defined which
requires the vet and
farmer to work
together and

  • the key areas of
    economic loss and
    define three priority
    areas for
  • prioritise key
    production targets
    to monitor;
  • assess the
    current disease
    status for Johne’s, BVD and IBR;
  • review the biosecurity and disease
    entry risks;
    n ensure that targets are agreed for key
    areas for improvement;
  • identify areas for capital improvement
    with an option to progress to
    application for farm improvements;
  • identify skills and training needs.

The vet and farmer receive an 80%
RDA grant towards the health planning

Achieving farmer engagement

In November we held a farmer meeting
and we discussed what opportunities
our farmers would get from taking part in RDA-funding for training (through
NADIS) and through the Advantage
West Midlands project. The famers
welcomed our interest in this area. We
also covered some clinical material on
the same night.

We followed this up with a
newsletter and then phoned up the
farmers to arrange appointments for visits. Our approach was to
exceed the requirements of
the audit and seek to build
our relationship and work
with our clients in the
longer term.

Farm visits

The process involves not
only assessing where the
farm is now but also
gathering data and setting
targets. We decided that
we would take this as an
opportunity to do some
good, rather than do the
bare minimum required to satisfy audit.

We decided the best way would be to split the visit into two parts: set up
and gathering data and then review and
plan/agree/finalise the audit. The
process takes about 3-4 hours of on-
farm time for a virgin farm. It was
easier on the farmer to split this into
two visits.

Initial set-up visit

There are a number of tools that can
be used to make it easier for the vet
and the farmer. We decided that it
would be more successful if we set up
the myhealthyherd access for each of
our farmers. This way they could
share the burden of the work in the

Depending on the problems on the
farm, the tools we used were, www.cattle- and

The key to making this process cost
effective is to get the farmer to share
the work with you. We helped the
farmer fill in some key data collection
forms for myhealthyherd
(biosecurity/Johne’s disease risks and
Dairy Health Evaluator) to help create a
quantifiable health and disease status for
us to use to satisfy the audit. We printed
off the audit form and used this as the
working document on the day for
scribbling on. This was typed up

How to use the tools


The myhealthyherd can be used as the central hub for the Advantage WM
plan. The completed audit form and any
results can be uploaded into the

  • Assess the risks of disease entry
    for the key diseases.

This immediately
highlights the risks of disease entry and
facilitated some useful discussion as to
how these risks were going to be
managed. High risk/low prevalence
herds were identified for vaccination
unless the risks of disease entry could
be prevented. This section takes about
10-15 minutes to complete. (Figure 1)

  • Set up a myhealthyherd health

We used this as an opportunity to
create a MHH health plan. The farmer was taught how to alter and amend the
plan and 70% of the work was left for
the farmer to do. We focussed on the
key elements of mastitis control,
pneumonia, scour, dry cow
management and parasite control.

  • Johne’s risks.

This is an important
area to pin down especially if risks of
disease entry are high. A simple risk
assessment for within-herd spread
identified the likelihood of JD spread
and this usefully led into creating a
strategic surveillance plan for the unit. A
simple 30-cow screen of 4-8-year-old
high-risk animals using milk costs the
farmer less than £75 through the milk
company and this would be reviewed on the second visit. (Figure 2)

  • Identifying and quantifying
    disease costs.

The health evaluator
within MHH creates a very simple
method of tracking disease area costs
compared to target. Key production
parameters can be selected for tracking
within the audit process such as
milk/cow/year or conception rate, etc.
It is also acceptable and probably more
informative to track recoverable losses
for culling/fertility/udder health as
these will allow you to monitor progress
from one review to the next easily with
the confidence that you are using a
reliable and repeatable all-encompassing
figure expressed in pence per litre.
(Figure 3)

  • Infectious disease control and

For the key diseases
listed you can work with the farmer and
identify key action points and plans for
surveillance/control and also record all
the results within the program. This
makes for much easier follow-up.
(Figure 4)

  • Culling audits.

If the herd does not
milk record or there are issues with
forced cull rates, then a full cull audit is
simple to do. The culls are listed on the
health evaluator input form and then
entered onto the program to create a
recoverable loss for culling as a primary
target to improve.

Bristol University lameness website

If the farmer has a significant lameness
problem, a visit to www.cattle-lameness is worthwhile. Farmer and vet
can log on and gain a heap of
information on lameness management
and use the risk assessment module to
highlight key areas for improvement on
the farm. We used this as the main tool
for lameness health planning.

National Milk Records/CIS

Again there are tools to record mobility
scores for the vast majority of dairy
herds. On one herd we spent part of
the visit educating the farmer in
mobility scoring. This data and process
will be used as part of the evidence base
for an application for capital funding for
new mattresses. Herd Companion and
Key Performance Indicators were used
to quantify production parameters
required for the Health Evaluator.
Similar data can be extracted from CIS.

So by the end of visit one you have
set up the farmer on myhealthyherd,
identified the key areas to focus on,
nearly completed the audit form and are
awaiting data population prior to
progressing to the second visit, which is
much shorter.

Review and agree

This second part of the process could
be at the surgery or on farm depending
on the tasks. If it is finalising data that
the farmer has entered onto MHH, then
this can be done from base. On two farms, mobility scores and cubicle
assessments were required and this
needs to be done on farm. It is useful to
allow some time to elapse for lab results
as this will help decision making. The
key areas for management on farms to
date have been lameness, udder health,
fertility, Johne’s and culling.

Outcomes of process so far

The farmers so far have valued the
process. They like the priority and target
setting. The farmers have also valued
the time to spend with the vet to tackle
areas that have previously perhaps
slipped through the net. Lameness and
culling are areas that can often be
parked for another day in the vain hope
that things will get better on their own.
Similarly, Johne’s control is often half
managed on farms.

Farmers have progressed with
greater confidence into controlling
Johne’s (IFM and risk-based control,
Herdwise), adopted vaccination
programmes with a clearer
understanding of why vaccines are used,
undertaken mobility scoring under our
guidance and engaged in a much wider
set of tools.

Farmers with udder health problems
will be targeted for the Dairy Co
Mastitis programme. We envisage that
next year these farms will be more
profitable and also we will be doing
some better work with a greater clarity
of focus and direction.

During the next few months we
will be building up the health
programmes on these herds based on
the priorities set and look forward to
reviewing the health savings we have
delivered to our clients in the years
ahead. True health management!

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