Financial aspects of veterinary herd health management programmes
Ifende, V.I. ; Derks, M. ; Hooijer, G.A. ; Hogeveen, H. - \ 2014
Veterinary Record 175 (2014)9. - ISSN 0042-4900
dutch dairy farms - netherlands - mastitis - cattle - cows - objectives - diseases - model
Veterinary herd health management (VHHM) programmes are meant to support herd health and farmers’ income (Brand and Guard 1996). They were introduced in the Netherlands in the 1970s (Sol and Renkema 1984) and at present many veterinarians provide them to farmers. VHHM comprises a basic structure of goal setting, planning, execution and evaluation. Farms are visited every four to six weeks, where the veterinarian inspects the animals, evaluates gathered data and provides advice (Brand and Guard 1996). Ideally, VHHM combines animal health, food safety, animal welfare and public health with farm management and economics (Noordhuizen and Wentink 2001, LeBlanc and others 2006). VHHM programmes are used not only in the Netherlands, but on a wider scale, for instance in the UK (Wassell and Esslemont 1992) and Denmark (Kristensen and Enevoldsen 2008). The farmers in Europe have to produce under strict, often expensive and laborious, regulations while competing with commercial farmers outside the EU who are not subjected to the same rules (Cannas de Silva and others 2006). As dairy farmers strive for further efficiency in production, driven by market economics, the risks and consequences of poor health and suboptimal production increase (Sibley 2006). VHHM programmes are meant to help farmers to produce products of high quality for a low cost price (Brand and Guard 1996). Its primary objectives include the optimisation of herd health, productivity, quality of products and profitability of the dairy enterprise (Blood and others 1978). In practice, some farms or veterinarians embrace the concepts of VHHM by active participation, while others do not (Derks and others 2012). Also, veterinarians are not always able to meet farmers’ requirements for VHHM (Hall and Wapenaar 2012, Derks 2013). Its efficiency is hard to determine. There is, for instance, no recent information on the cost implications of this programme with regard to perceived profitability in farms. A limited number of controlled studies were carried out in the early 1970s and 1980s to evaluate the effects of VHHM on farm performance (Williamson 1980, Sol and others 1984). It was shown that a VHHM programme produced considerable benefits to participating farmers. A follow-up study showed approximately 8 per cent increase in margin per cow compared with the initial margin, using 1974–1975 as a base year (Hogeveen and others 1992). Since that time, no economic studies were carried out on the effects of these programmes. This study evaluates the economic relationship between participation in a VHHM programme and farm performance on dairy farms and estimates the costs incurred by the participation in this programme as well as the net returns (NR), including factors that influence the NR on a farm.
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