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Veterinary herd health management programs on Dutch dairy farms: execution and relations with farm performance and economics

By M. Derks

Abstract

This thesis describes the execution, effects and economic benefits of veterinary herd health management (VHHM) programs on Dutch dairy farms. In chapter two, participants and non-participants in VHHM were asked for their opinions on VHHM. Important reasons for farmers to participate in VHHM were to increase milk production and to prevent organizational blindness; important reasons not to participate in VHHM were high costs and time consumption. Farmers more satisfied with VHHM had lower somatic cell counts and shorter calving intervals. In chapter three, thirty VHHM conversations between veterinarian and farmer were audiotaped to evaluate the veterinarians’ advisory skills. Veterinarians and farmers had different priorities regarding topics that needed to be discussed. Veterinarians also were often unaware of the farmer’s main goal, and expected their farmers to come up with problems themselves more often than actually happened. The advisory conversation was not structured and the veterinarian often did not summarize advice or ask the farmer’s needs. Chapter four shows that farmers were most like to discuss topics such as fertility, milk production and udder health. Further, the way farmers sought and handled information predicted, to some extent, the likelihood that they participated in VHHM: farmers with a more open attitude to information were more likely to participate, but up to a certain maximum. Participants in VHHM were shown to have a higher milk production, more cows, a lower calving interval and a lower somatic cell count. In chapter five, the relations between participation in VHHM and farm performance were looked at more closely. On average, participants had a higher milk production and a lower age at first calving and a lower somatic cell count. They had, however, a lower non-return percentage at 56 days, a higher number of inseminations per cow, and culled cows at a lower age. Chapter six used the farm data and the differences described in chapter five as input for a model that estimated cost efficiency of VHHM. With this model, adjusting for the costs for VHHM and replacement heifers, the benefit-cost ratio equaled about € 5 per invested € 1 for VHHM participants, with an increase in net returns of € 30 per cow per year after adjusting for the costs of the VHHM program and the costs of culling. In chapter seven, relations between farmers’ income, farm efficiency and participation in VHHM were examined. Participants had a higher income per cow, but not per 100 kg milk. They produced more milk per cow per year, and had a lower somatic cell count and a lower age at first calving. Overall farm efficiency did not differ between participants and non-participants in VHHM. While participants still do make more money per cow per year, this benefit could be greater: data is unavailable because currently advice is not always recorded or followed up in the most optimal way. Further, if veterinarians could recognize and meet farmers’ requirements and wishes, positive results of participation in VHHM are potentially even greater

Publisher: Utrecht University
Year: 2014
OAI identifier: oai:dspace.library.uu.nl:1874/294597
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