Dear Daktari, I have been a banker for 30 years and wish to retire into dairy farming. Is there a system where I can have a vet by my side, just like we do in financial management, where we visit our clients regularly for expert advice? [Duncan Maitima, Meru]
Thank you Duncan. First, please go ahead with the plan to venture into dairy farming.
Upon retiring, there is nothing as engaging and fulfilling as farming. Taking care of animals and growing crops will give you the sense of peace and serenity that you need in those sunset years.
I understand your concerns and your need to have an expert by your side as you dive into these new waters.
Prevention is better than cure
In the banking language, it is called being cost-effective by minimising losses and maximising profits.
In livestock keeping, this concept of managing problems before they spill out of control is called herd health management.
This programme is developed by the vet together with the farmer and ensures proper healthcare and improved productivity.
The whole idea is to minimise costs by preventing rather than treating. The components of a herd health programme are unique to every farm and cannot be replicated across board.
What herd health management entails
However, the following components are common to all: scheduled farm visit to carry out livestock examinations, performance review and training of farm hands on various simple disease prevention, monitoring, sample collection and production techniques.
The larger the herd the higher the need for regular visits. During farm visits the veterinary doctor will examine all the animals, carry out any emergency operations, monitor healing of animals under treatment and schedule other routine health operation.
In conclusion, herd management programme provides a two-way path where the veterinary doctor walks with the farmer closely to ensure herd health and subsequently productivity.
Attaching a vet to your farm also improves his knowledge of the farm and hence puts him at a better place to handle animal health issues.
Do not fear the cost of the herd health management programme, it is much cheaper than waiting to reactively deal with health, reproduction and production issues on your farm.
[The writer is the Vet of the Year Award winner]