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INCOME streams from the sale of medicines and government-sponsored disease control initiatives have sustained the cattle veterinary sector since the Second World War, but this is under significant threat. Veterinary surgeons have an important role to play in future food production through herd health and production management, but must assert themselves if they are to make the aspiration of herd health as an income stream a reality. A central theme to this challenge is addressing the difference in perception of ‘herd health’ that sometimes exists between veterinary surgeons and their farm clients.
A degree of confusion exists between the production of a static herd health plan (HHP) and the active process of herd health and production management (HH&PM). The drive for farm assurance in the late 1990s marked an important opportunity for veterinary engagement with the industry and it was important that this opportunity was taken energetically (Sibley 2000). However, only recently has dynamic measurement of performance become a requirement of farm assurance (http://assurance.redtractor.org.uk/rtassurance/global/home.eb). The drive to promote HH&PM has sometimes been undermined by the production of generic ‘plans’ imposed to satisfy retailer requirements for farm assurance rather than reflecting a working summary of herd health in action.
‘HH&PM’ is not a new concept; a preventive approach has been repeatedly advocated by government and veterinary organisations since the 1940s (Woods 2007, A. Woods, personal communication). Farm health planning (FHP) remains central to the Animal Health and Welfare Strategy for Great Britain. The aim remains to facilitate the development and uptake of FHP, which practising veterinarians will offer as a private service to their farming clients (Statham 2008). …
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