Dotting the ‘i’ - How?
“Make sure you have a good and close relationship with the vet. Run through health programmes. Plan out how to tackle your problems. And work with rigid protocols for staff. You cannot count on your staff being all-knowing. I was recently at a company with eight milkers. One dipped, the second sprayed, and the third did nothing at all. Make things clear! Be very careful about writing down how things should happen, and train your staff on that. Motivate them as much as possible.”
Working with protocols is the main key. Does that happen enough?
“Nowhere near everywhere. The step from going from farmer on one-man business to being a larger company manager has not yet been made for them. There are entrepreneurs thinking about it. We’re in the middle of that process.”
Where can I, as a farmer, come into the possession of the knowledge that goes into making a good protocol?
“Write it out yourself first, as you think that the work should be done. And then test it. That may work fine with a veterinarian, but also with a consultant, or a spokesperson. Please realise that every business is different and therefore also requires company-specific protocols.”
Does that vet know exactly how things go?
“GD will give vets special courses, how to deal with animal health using protocols, how to make protocols and how to work with them. At agricultural schools, they should do so as well. Animal Health for large quantities of livestock is an important part of the veterinary practice. In America you can see that there is a split in veterinary clinics or within a practice. One specialises in animal health from day to day, the other more in the health of the company: risks to image, setting realistic goals, analysing what’s going on, making a plan and monitoring. In the pig and poultry farming such a split is already common, but this is not yet the case in the dairy sector.”
Diseases in big companies don’t run their course quickly?
“This has everything to do with the size of the company. For 400 cows, the risk that the disease will end itself is much smaller than for a company of 50. For example with Salmonella Dublin there is a small chance, say 1%, that an infected animal is a carrier. With 50 cows the chance that one Salmonella bearer is ‘accidentally’ discharged is considerably larger than that in a company of 400 animals where all carriers ‘happened’ to be removed. With accidental discharges, I mean discharge because of, for example, fertility or mastitis. A smaller herd means it’s easier to get rid of a disease than it would be were your herd much larger.”
I can’t get rid of the disease. Is that a signal that the farmer doesn’t have a good grip on animal health care?
“Then you have a problem. Make sure you take care of it, otherwise you’ll have a bigger problem.”
Can proper management of animal health also be monetised?
“A lot of money could be involved in dealing with a disease. In America it can be the case that the bank (financer) of a farm demands to solve a problem with mycoplasma bovis in the herd, otherwise the bank pulls the plug. There are more cases where things are all or nothing. All the more reason to put more effort in managing animal health.”
Ynte Hein Schukken
Ynte Hein Schukken (55) has been the director of Animal Health at the Animal Health Service (GD) in Deventer since August 2001. Before that, he worked as a professor at Cornell University in upstate New York for several years, and at the same time worked as the director of a subsidiary of Cornell’s Quality Milk Production Services. Ynte Schukken is the son of a veterinarian from Heerenveen and graduated in 1987 from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Utrecht. He has become an expert in the field of epidemiological research into, among other things, udder health. Since mid last year Ynte is also a professor at Wageningen University and the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Utrecht.