Farmer Abi Reader has a 200-strong herd of Holstein Friesians and Dairy Shorthorns on a year-round calving system. When her herd suddenly started experiencing increased late abortions nine years ago, she had some blood tests done. They revealed she had Neospora, an aborting disease passed down from mother to daughter, or potentially spread by dog faeces.
The loss of the calf was demoralising enough, but worse for Abi was that the cow never really came back into any significant milk, often putting on weight and ended up leaving the herd sooner than planned.
Abi’s vet suggested she join a CHECS licensed scheme, which offered guidelines for simpler methods of testing to save time and money and, more importantly, get rid of the disease. She pays annual membership of around £70 and gets fixed-price blood testing at better rates because she commits to testing with that scheme provider’s laboratory. She also receives biosecurity advice via her vet, and her scheme provider gives her a list of animals positive for the disease.
From finding Neospora in a third of her herd and having a calving interval of 480 days, she is now seeing the disease in less than 5% of the herd, and her calving interval is 366 days.
Discovering her herd had this disease was depressing. And controlling it and trying to eradicate it was hard. But the herd is in a better place now and the business is stronger, thanks to joining the health scheme and following its protocols.