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Herd Health

Find information about mastitis, transition cows, vaccination protocols, working with your veterinarian, hoof care and hoof trimming.

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Editor’s note: The following section includes commentary from questions posed to Dr. Richard Holliday, a holistic veterinarian. To ask your own question, e-mail the question to . Answers to submissions will be printed in Progressive Dairyman’s October organics section.

“Hey, Doc, waddaya got for mastitis?” is a question posed by dairymen everywhere. I wish I had a good answer. Treatments range from frequent stripping out of the udder to the newest antibiotic or immune stimulant. Fortunately, many treatments are successful. But some treatments only suppress the symptoms, and when the effect of the treatment wears off the symptoms return with a vengeance. Unfortunately, any success with treatment often interferes with the need or desire to address the actual cause of the problems. Holistic veterinary medicine may have some insights into this problem – insights often overlooked by today’s dairymen.

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Salmonellosis is a disease of all animals caused by the genus Salmonellae and usually characterized by one or more of three major syndromes:

1) Septicemia (a blood infection)

2) Acute enteritis (infection and inflammation of the intestinal tract)

3) Chronic enteritis (a long-term infection and inflammation of the intestinal tract)

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The transition period, extending from approximately three weeks prior to calving to about 40 days after calving, includes the time frame during which the overwhelming majority of dairy cow diseases occur.

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Lameness is an economically important problem in dairy cattle worldwide. Economic losses resulting from lameness arise not only from the cost to treat clinical cases but also from decreased milk production, decreased reproductive efficiency and premature culling. New York researchers estimate the average cost of lameness per 100 cows per year to be nearly $9,000.

The average incidence was 30 cases per 100 cows per year with a case fatality rate of 2 percent, involuntary culling rate of 20 percent and increase in average days open of 29 days. The National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) Dairy 1996 study revealed that 15 percent of dairy cows were culled due to lameness or injury.

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Your cows don’t talk, but they can be communicating some very important messages. Are you listening? The way cows behave can tell us a lot about how the cattle are handled, how comfortable their facilities are and if management is causing or reducing stress. It’s easy to write off a cow’s opinion since college-trained people have scientifically taken care of all her nutritional and housing needs. Cow-handling skills are not considered because the cow is confined in a barn and we can make her go where we want. Here are some reasons why we need to pay attention to our cows’ behavior.

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An important concept in dairy herd health is early diagnosis and treatment of sick cows. It may even be more important than the type of treatment administered. In lactating dairy cows, this concept cannot be overemphasized. A delay in treating a sick cow not only reduces her chances for a full recovery but results in milk production loss and may impair reproductive performance, especially if the disease occurs early postpartum.

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