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Ranch-fresh thinking for managing animal health

Tips for the busy spring and summer period

Saskatchewan VBP provincial co-ordinator Coy Schellenberg ranches near Beechy, Sask.

Verified Beef Production (VBP) – When you grow up on a busy cow-calf operation like Coy Schellenberg did, you learn that attention to detail matters, especially when things get hectic.

One of the busiest times of year for producers is heading into spring and early summer. Calving season, often with round-the-clock herd checks. Yearlings and replacements moving to grass.

All of that, Schellenberg knows, means animal health processes need to be managed particularly closely. He has a unique perspective. He is a producer himself and also provincial co-ordinator for the Verified Beef Production (VBP) program, Canada’s beef on-farm food safety program.

The recommended approach and the rationale for those recommendations are clear to Schellenberg. But he also knows the mental barriers that can tempt producers to take shortcuts.

His advice? Keep it simple.

Know the core issues. To him the key parts of the animal health Standard Operating Procedure under VBP are threefold. Health product withdrawal times, to make sure there are no chemical residues in meat. Managing needle use to prevent physical contamination of meat. And keeping proper records, to prove what you’re doing.

Beat the “busy” excuse. It’s hectic managing calving and processing cattle onto grass. Slow down during processing to ensure products are administered correctly and take time to write down what you’ve done.

Value record-keeping. Schellenberg believes most cattlemen are already doing things well enough to pass a VBP audit. That, he believes, is kudos to the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association for the effort put into building the VBP program to help demonstrate responsible production.

The difference is today not all producers value records enough to keep them up to date. “It’s the most overlooked area in animal health management,” he says. “They may feel they have a good memory and can recall which animals were treated with what. But at the end of the day it’s a busy world. To reduce error and to protect themselves and their industry, they need to clearly know what is going on.”

Manage needles. It may be tempting when you are busy, but don’t bend a needle back. It is likely to break where it was bent. And use detectable needles.

Use your vet. There’s real added value in having a veterinarian come out to your operation, says Schellenberg. There are times like preg checking where they will be at your operation anyway. But building a herd health program just makes sense, to have a clear vaccination program, for example, or improve reproduction rates.

There is no denying this is a cash expense, he says. But once you develop a reputation with your vet so they know your operation and your objectives, it creates efficiency and effectiveness. It can be so convenient to get them on the phone, and they are comfortable enough to give you advice without having to come out to do it.

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