Animal Health

Ensure treatment protocols meet needs of your farm

By Gemma Chuck

In seasonal calving areas, many herds have either just started or are in preparation for the autumn calving season.

Due to the nature of seasonal and split calving patterns there can be extensive time periods between treatment of animals with certain diseases and conditions.

This time lapse has the disadvantage in that veterinary drugs can become outdated and there has been a turnover of staff since the last season.

Additionally, there can be new treatments and approaches to disease that were not available the previous season.

Establishing written treatment protocols in conjunction with your veterinarian will help ensure that sick animals are provided with appropriate and timely treatment.

This increases the chance of recovery and return to production. These protocols describe the treatments given to sick cattle for specific diseases or conditions when detection, examination, and treatments are conducted by farm staff.

The development of specific protocols requires the support and cooperation of the farm owner, farm staff and veterinarian.

Following fixed treatment regimens can seem a challenge initially but creating plans for the most common diseases will make their management very straightforward.

Treatment protocols not only promote the judicious use of antibiotics in dairy cattle but also can improve animal welfare and reduce the risk of violative milk or meat residues.

Your prescribing veterinarian should help develop the treatment protocols specific to your farm. Every farm is different, with different diseases and different pathogens.

Farms are dynamic environments and it is important to review the treatments protocols annually to ensure that the correct, most up-to-date and appropriate treatments are being followed.

Treatment protocols will fail if they are not followed or ‘procedural drift’ occurs. This happens when staff ‘adjust’ the treatment protocol without consulting their veterinarian.

If you have a treatment protocol that is not working on your farm, let your veterinarian know and discuss how it can be changed without a compromise in animal health. Ultimately, your veterinarian will want the protocols to be successful.

Written treatment protocols will only be helpful if all staff have been trained to correctly examine and identify the conditions or diseases they are being expected to treat. Training sessions at least annually with your veterinarian will provide an opportunity for existing staff to refresh their knowledge and for new staff to learn the protocols for the farm.

This is also the time for new problems and treatments to be discussed. Your veterinarian may want to evaluate how well the treatment protocols have performed.

This will rely on accurate record keeping detailing how sick animals were identified, the treatments they received and the outcome of those treatments.

A basic treatment protocol should detail:

■ The name of the prescribing vet

■ The date on which the treatment protocol was developed/reviewed

■ Who is responsible for the treatments

■ Which group of animals are being treated (medications are labelled differently for different groups eg. calves, heifers, cows)

■ What are the common signs of the disease or condition

■ What treatments should be administered (name of medication, dose, route of administration, frequency of administration)

■ What to do if there is a poor response to treatment or relapse of signs post-treatment

■ What are the milk and meat with-holding periods

By following this basic treatment protocol template, farmers and veterinarians can work together to provide feasible and practical plans for the common diseases occurring on farm.

This will help improve animal welfare, save time and money and reduce the risk of antimicrobial resistance in the long-term.

• Dr Gemma Chuck is a veterinary adviser at Apiam Animal Health.