6 - Herd health and welfare

Key actions

  • Know the common cattle diseases in your locality and whether they are likely to affect production.
  • Implement a disease management plan using veterinary advice.
  • Vaccinate against specific diseases that can infect cattle and people.
  • Seek veterinary advice for any unexplained health problem.
  • Develop a biosecurity plan to prevent the introduction of infectious diseases.
  • Review all factors affecting the welfare of your cattle herd.

Why is the health and welfare of your herd important?

A well-planned approach to managing cattle health and welfare controls the risk of disease in a cost-effective way and maximises the production potential and profit of your herd.

In 2010–11, animal health costs in beef herds amounted to approximately 4% of total costs in south-western Victoria (Department of Primary Industries, Victoria Farm Monitor project 2011). While the direct cost of managing diseases in beef herds in southern Australia appears relatively small, individual diseases and disorders can have a major financial impact on profitability.

A 2011 MLA report, Managing production risk on high input farms, identified that the difference between good and poor worm control in a typical, high rainfall southern beef herd is typically 0.05/kg liveweight, or an $18/hectare difference in cost of production. The increase in cost of production is the direct result of lower production.  

This module outlines the five key procedures required to manage a healthy beef cattle herd.

A sound animal health management plan uses preventative approaches to avoid disease from striking, and early treatment in the event that it does.

If treatment is necessary, it should use as few chemicals as possible. Access to both domestic and export markets is dependent on beef being free from chemical and pesticide residues. Consumers of beef want safe, wholesome meat produced with minimum chemical use. Overuse of some chemicals to treat disease has led to them becoming ineffective, and there are few new alternative available to producers.

Use chemicals at correct dosage rates as per recommendations

How does this module assist you?

This module describes how to prevent health problems, in preference to reacting after disease has already affected the herd. It is based on:

  • knowing the conditions that can influence cattle health
  • applying the right management strategy or treatment when your cattle are at risk
  • preventing the introduction of infectious diseases onto the property.

Linkages to other modules

This module outlines the procedures required to manage a healthy cattle herd. Without implementing these procedures, producers cannot achieve the productivity gains possible from purchasing additional livestock when a period of excess pasture is predicted (see Module 2: Pasture growth), better utilising available pasture (see Module 3: Pasture utilisation) and optimising weaner throughput (see Module 5: Weaner throughput).

Following the five procedures will also help producers to meet market specifications (see Module 7: Meeting market specifications).

Principles of herd health and welfare

  • Know the most important cattle diseases and disorders in your locality or region.
  • Disease prevention is more effective and less costly than treatment.

Procedures for managing the health and welfare of your herd