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                    John Gay, DVM PhD DACVPM               AAHP                  FDIU             VCS

VM 577 Herd Production Medicine

Getting Connected to Information Pipelines  

Version 3.3  Updated 08/19/05


The objective is to help students begin identifying and using sources of current herd production medicine information, particularly via the Internet, that they will need in practice to solve problems and remove bottlenecks  in client's herds and to begin networking with innovative colleagues.


Practitioners need efficient ways to keep up on developments in agricultural animal veterinary medicine. Professional knowledge is constantly advancing, new diseases are recognized or old ones emerge in a new form, technology is constantly evolving (e.g., ultrasound) and the livestock industry changes rapidly because of the great economic pressure of low margins and price volatility. This advancing knowledge may come from bench research, field studies, collective practitioner experience or the allied industries and may appear in the primary scientific literature, proceedings of professional organizations, proceedings of trade meetings, trade publications, or industrial sources. Because the need for an update on a given topic is most often driven by the immediate need to solve a particular problem occurring in a client's herd, the ability and means to do this both efficiently and timely is very important. Now being available in the remotest of areas, the Internet provides the most rapid access to information.

For the purposes of this class, the following is focused primarily on the bovine.


Books provide the fundamentals for approaching herd problems. However, due to the time required for the writing and publishing process, books are usually not current in all the areas they cover. The fundamental core is a large animal medicine text, such as Blood and Radostit's "Veterinary Medicine: A Textbook of the Diseases of Cattle, Sheep, Pigs, Goats and Horses", Rebhun's "Diseases of Dairy Cattle", or Smith's "Large Animal Internal Medicine".

Herd Production Medicine Texts:

The next level are those texts targeted specifically at dealing with herd-level rather than individual problems.

Radostits, OM, ed. (2001). Herd Health: Food Animal Production Medicine 3rd edition, Saunders, 884 pp. ISBN 0-7216-7694-4.

From the Publisher: Herd Health offers integrated coverage of all aspects of herd animals-dairy and beef cattle, calves, sheep, and swine-in one volume. It provides effective new strategies for herd health management. It gives veterinary students the basic knowledge and framework for production-oriented animal health management and also gives veterinary practitioners information to provide animal health management services to every segment of the livestock industry. It integrates veterinary medicine, animal husbandry, nutrition and housing, and animal welfare as they relate to production management, acquaints veterinarians with economical programs that allow for the most effective production of healthy livestock, resulting in the best-quality food products, and offers an invaluable grasp of crucial issues such as how to avoid contamination of meat and milk with antimicrobial residues, antimicrobial-resistant bacteria, growth-enhancing hormones, and other potential health hazards.

Table of Contents, 3rd ed:

  1. General principles of health management in food-producing animals, Otto M. Radostits
  2. Quantitative tools for production-oriented veterinarians, Barrett D. Slenning
  3. Records systems and herd monitoring in production-oriented health management programs in food-producing animals, Jeffery K. Reneau and Mark L. Kinsel
  4. Control of infectious diseases in food-producing animals, Otto M. Radostits
  5. Investigation of disease outbreaks and suboptimal productivity, Cheryl Waldner
  6. Dairy cattle health and production, Pamela L. Ruegg
  7. Maintaining reproductive efficiency in dairy cattle, Peter W. Farin and Barrett D. Slenning
  8. Culling and genetics in dairy cattle, George E. Shook
  9. Health management of dairy calves and replacement heifers, A. Judson Heinrichs and Otto M. Radostits
  10. Mastitis control in dairy herds, Ron Erskine
  11. Dairy cattle nutrition, Brian J. Gerloff
  12. Dairy cattle housing and environmental management, W.G. Bickert and Otto M. Radostits
  13. Health management in beef cattle breeding herds, Peter J. Chenoweth, Michael W. Sanderson
  14. Health and production management in beef feedlots, Robert A. Smith, Gerald L. Stokka, Otto M. Radostits, and D. Dee Griffin
  15. Planned animal health and production in swine herds, Robert B. Morrison, Scott Allen Dee, and John Deen
  16. Health and production management for sheep

Brand, A, JPTM Noordhuizen, YH Shukken (eds.) (2nd reprint 1998) Herd health and production management in dairy practice, ISBN 90-74134-34-3 2001 , 543 pp. http://www.wageningenacademic.com/

From the publisher: The main aim of this book is to teach students, practitioners and farm advisors how to give management support to the dairy farmer in order to optimize the health, productivity and welfare of the herd. Management practices and farm conditions which have both positive and negative influences on these aspects are covered, rather than a more traditional focus on specific diseases. The core element in this methodology is the protocol. In order to illustrate the standard protocol the practitioner and farm advisor are taken through a farm visit, during which operational and problem-solving issues are addressed. These issues include: nutrition, health care, reproduction, milk production, replacement rearing and farm economics.


  1. Herd Health and Production Management Programs
  2. Monitoring Replacement Rearing
  3. Monitoring Dry Period Management
  4. Monitoring Milk Production
  5. Monitoring Reproductive Performance
  6. Monitoring Udder Health
  7. Monitoring Foot Health
  8. Approach for Control of Infectious Diseases in Cattle Herds
  9. Animal Health and Dairy Production in Developing Countries

Note that useful chapters appear in other books, such as Current Therapy in Large Animal Theriogenology. Also, some chapters in previous editions are worth reading because the specific material may have been omitted from subsequent editions due to the lack of space or different authorship.

Animal Husbandry and Management Texts:

Given that your "competition" (e.g., your client's other information providers  - feed company reps., pharmaceutical company reps., university extension personnel) often have at least undergraduate training in animal science and that your clients expect you to have at least the same level of understanding, you should be familiar with the material in the capstone animal science courses for that industry.

For dairy: 

Van Horn, AH, CJ Wilcox (eds.). (1992 - getting dated). Large Dairy Herd Management. American Dairy Science Association, Champaign, Ill. 825 pages. ISBN 0-9634491-0-9. $60.00 member, $120 non-member, %40 discount for order of ten or more. http://www.adsa.org/jds/adsapubi.html (Amazon)

For beef: 

Field, TG, RE Taylor (2002). Beef Production and Management Decisions, 4th ed. Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-088879-6, $113.00. 768 p. (Amazon)

Review Series:

Reading focused reviews are an excellent way to get up to speed on a given topic. Each issue of Veterinary Clinics focuses on a particular topic with each paper reviewing an aspect of that topic. The website lists past issues that are still available. 

Veterinary Clinics of North America: Food Animal Practice (3x/yr, $113.00 per yr.)

Harcourt Health Sciences

"Connection" Activities:

For the purposes of this class, you are expected to complete the following connection activities.

  1. Join the American Association of Bovine Practitioners as a student member (students $15 / year).
  2. Professional associations are one of the major ways that practitioners keep up to date, to share ideas and to network with innovative practitioners pushing the envelope of herd production medicine.

     The AABP is an international association of veterinarians organized to enhance the professional lives of its members through relevant continuing education that will improve the well-being of cattle and the economic success of their owners, increase awareness and promote leadership for issues critical to cattle industries, and improve opportunities for careers in bovine medicine. The AABP has a particularly strong seminar series associated with their annual meeting. Annually the AABP recognizes innovative beef and dairy practitioners who are widely esteemed by their peers through sponsored awards at the national meeting.

    The AABP has a page of topics and links for students at http://www.aabp.org/; click on "Students".

    Other subscription contact information is the following:

    Post Office Box 1765
    Rome, GA 30162-1755

    Phone: 800-COW-AABP (269-2227)   FAX: 706 232-2232     Email: aabphq@aabp.org

    Beef cow-calf / feedlot interest (optional but recommended):

    Join the Academy of Veterinary Consultants as a student member. The AVC is an association of veterinarians involved in beef cattle medicine, herd health programs and consultation. The AVC mission is to provide continuing education, member support and leadership among various entities of the beef cattle industry. Membership in the AVMA is required.

    To join as student member, contact Dr. Dee Griffin 402-762-4500 and provide him information on your student status, career intentions and so on.

    If you have interests in other production species, such as small ruminants or swine, you should join the respective professional organizations for practitioners interested in those species.

  3. Sign on to AABP-L discussion list (requires membership in AABP), set it to the digest mode and learn to use keywords to search the AABP-L archives.
  4. E-mail discussion lists are a great way for practitioners to exchange ideas and to obtain input on a problem in a client's herd from fellow practitioners who have seen similar problems or from academicians doing research in the area. This list is archived, meaning that you can search for previous discussions on a particular subject.

    For information on how to sign on to AABP-L, go to the AABP website and click on "AABP Resources" then "AABP-L List Server". For information on how to set AABP-L to the digest mode (to avoid being buried by e-mails) and how to search the archives, click on "AABP-L Help Area (for current subscribers)" at the top of the "AABP-L List Server" page and read "Help, I have too many messages! - Take the Digest Mode Cure".

  5. Subscribe to producer-oriented trade magazines in your area of interest:
  6. For several reasons, subscribe to the trade magazines in your area of interest. First, many new ideas are written up in trade magazines before they appear in the professional refereed journals. These ideas may not prove out but you need to know what innovations are being tried. Second, trade magazines cover the economics of the industry, consumer trends and other issues impacting your clients. The better you understand these issues, the better you can tailor your services and understand client decisions. Finally, because many of the articles are about diseases and animal health issues and your clients expect you to be knowledgeable in these areas, you need to see what your clients are reading about diseases that you are dealing with in their herds. Many of these trade magazines have websites as well.

    For dairy (selected):

    For beef (selected - free to qualified):

    I recommend that you organize among yourselves, make a list of addresses for all the people that want a particular magazine and have one person make the contact. You will need to explain that you are veterinary students intending to practice in this particular industry. You are not limited to these particular trade magazines.

  7. Join American Dairy Science Association ($10/year) or American Animal Science Association ($20/yr).
  8. Given that many production medicine problems involve nutrition, that feed is the single largest expense and that animal science journals contain considerably more nutrition research than veterinary journals, these journals are worthwhile to subscribe to. Student membership allows access to the 1995 to date Journal of Dairy Science or Journal of Animal Science articles as PDF files. On-line access to the JDSA articles will be particularly useful during your senior Food Animal blocks.

    Print out the membership application form http://www.adsa.org/sad/memberapp.htm at: http://www.adsa.org/sad.asp (ADSA) http://www.asas.org/2002-03Application.pdf (ASA)

    Mail or FAX to:

    American Dairy Science Association
    1111 N. Dunlap Avenue
    Savoy, IL 61874

    Phone: 217/356-3182; FAX: 217/398-4119 e-mail: adsa@assochq.org

    American Society of Animal Science
    1111 N. Dunlap Ave.
    Savoy, IL 61874        Fax 217-398-4119

  9. Selected Examples of On-line Resources:

Familiarize yourself with the following websites by browsing through them.

On-line Proceedings:

Beef Improvement Federation (click on symposium papers or archives)

Range Beef Cow Symposium XVIII (12/03, Mitchell, NB - click on presenter's name for slides, paper pdf or audio)

XVII Proceedings

Western Dairy Management Conference, Reno, NV
http://www.wdmc.org/proceed.htm (1993 - 2001 proceedings on-line)

This is a major conference that many western dairy producers and dairy veterinarians attend.

Western Canadian Dairy Seminar (University of Alberta - entire 1995 to date proceedings are on-line)
http://www.wcds.afns.ualberta.ca/index.asp?page=/Proceedings/Index (Note: this site is reorganized regularly)

Excellent papers on important topics from national authorities.

Economic and Production Benchmarks:

Having economic and production benchmarks is very important for you and your clients as they provide a basis for comparison to identify areas of strength, weakness and opportunity. Benchmark comparison between herds is a important motivator for top end producers.

Center for National Animal Health Surveillance (CNAHS)

USDA APHIS CNAHS regularly performs statistically valid surveys of randomly selected livestock enterprises (e.g., beef cow-calf, feedlot, dairy, swine) across the major states to determine production losses, such as calf mortality, producer management practices, such as transition cow management, health practices, such as what vaccines producers actually used on what animals, and many other items. This is an excellent source to determine what proportion of producers have adopted a particular management practice advocated by veterinarians as well as production and reproduction benchmarks. Click on a species in the top row to view reports from all surveys dealing with that species or issue.

Selected Extension Materials:

National Ag Risk Education Library - Budget Section
(not completely current but large site)

Western Risk Management Library

Software (includes enterprise spreadsheets)

Publication Indexes:

Cornell Consultant (created and maintained by Dr. Maurice White, Cornell food animal clinician) http://www.vet.cornell.edu/consultant/consult.asp

PubMed http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi

This index, besides providing abstracts for those papers having them, also has a very useful "Related Articles" function that enables you to identify all the literature classified in the same fashion as the citation to which the button is attached. Some hits also have links to full text papers and other materials. PubMed is covering more of the veterinary literature and includes most of the major veterinary journals.

Specific On-line Disease Websites:

The following are my webpages containing links to selected on-line information for producers and veterinarians that is available on that specific disease.

Study Guide / Reading Lists of American Board of Veterinary Practitioners:

The ABVP "seeks to promote the highest of standards in contemporary veterinary clinical practice" and enables practitioners to demonstrate that they have considerable professional expertise in a particularly area of veterinary practice, which they can then advertise under ethics standards as being a specialist. The following are study guides and reading lists for the ag animal specialties relevant to this class.

Company Websites (selected examples):

Sites on Issues Unfavorable or Potentially Unfavorable to Livestock Agriculture (selected examples):

You and your clients should be aware of such issues. Consumers of your clients' products will certainly see them when they search the web. For example, of 10 of the first hits from searching on "meat" with Google recently, 2 were anti-meat consumption and for "milk", 4.

Other On-line Resource Examples:

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