Lance Ellis

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and when it comes to a small acreage, this old adage rings as true as ever. Too often people who own an animal or small herd of animals on a small acreage figure that they don’t need to worry about their animals getting sick so they do nothing, or possibly they think they really can’t afford to buy the needed vaccines since they only have two or three head of animals. Or due to a lack of experience or information, they don’t realize that there are diseases or physical problems that can be prevented which they need to address and its worth a few minutes of their time and the small amount of money to save themselves the loss of an animal or a costly veterinarian bill. No matter how small or large your animal herd is, you need to develop an annual herd health plan. Even if you only have one horse or one animal, you still need to consult with your veterinarian to find out what annual vaccines (an example is a vaccine for West Nile virus in horses) need to be given.

Another good example regarding horses, is the importance of choosing worming treatments to be used as internal parasites can become resistant to the a particular treatment if over used or used repeatedly. Creating an annual health plan does not need to be cumbersome or terribly inconvenient, but rather something that gives you the peace of mind of know you are doing everything within your power to help your animals be as healthy as possible. You also do not want your herd of animals, no matter what kind, to be a source of infection for other people’s animals in the surrounding area or when you travel to shows, fairs, or sell at an auction.

The list of contagious diseases, internal or external parasites, or health damaging conditions can seem like a daunting list, and rather than relying on an internet search or someone’s blog to find out what you should do, always consult with your veterinarian to create a research based health plan. It’s important to recognize that veterinarians will have recommendations more specific to their local geographical area than the internet does, due to their experience and the problems they have faced over the years. For example, they may know that the grass in a particular area has a mineral deficiency that would lead cattle or sheep to become unhealthy or die, and that livestock owners may need to supplement with a mineral mix designed to meet this deficiency and resolve this issue.

As part of a good health plan, its important to prepare for issues you know will be a problem or could be an issue, or which could come up depending on the location or weather. Problems such as biting flies, pink eye, liver flukes, coccidiosis, and most issues require the owner to prepare, prevent, and in the case that it happens, are ready to treat the affected animal and try to restore it to good health.

Another aspect of a good livestock health plan is it talks about what shelter and bedding are needed and should be provided for your animals throughout the year depending on the season and their changing needs. Another applicable adage regarding bedding and the comfort of your animals says, “the best medicine is straw”. This statement intends that by providing a dry bedding of straw to your animals whenever needed, especially during bad weather, will keep them stronger, healthier, and have less stress on their bodies which helps to reduce medication usage. Ultimately, a well fed, and cared for animal will have less disease issues and come through the cold months healthier and stronger.

The last aspect of a health plan is if your animals will be producing babies, and that you are prepared to meet the specific needs the little ones will have, which many times are different from the adults. As a general rule it’s good to keep a first aid kit for your animals on hand to resolve minor issues just as you would for your human household. Each kit would be different depending upon the type of animals you have or the problems you envision you will encounter. For further questions, feel free to contact Lance at 208-624-3102.