Boosting the health margin
Jan Arie Koorevaar isn’t just a global marketing manager for Elanco ... each day he’s up at first light to put in the hours at the family dairy farm. As one of his regular contributions to Elanco360 on life as a producer, Jan Arie talks about why investment in herd health makes financial as well as ethical sense.

Milk prices have dominated the dairy news agenda across Europe in recent years, and this shows no sign of changing. It’s a challenging time for dairy farmers, after all.

And so nurturing cows and improving their ‘health margin’ has become an ever greater necessity for many producers. After all, it’s healthy, well-fed cows that generate an income.

Total milk production in the EU increased between 2015 and 2016. This is largely because, until May 2015, EU milk quotas represented a cap on milk production for our industry.

These quotas were bought and traded, and so when they were abolished, farmers were able to invest instead in boosting their production – unfettered by any restrictions.  

They made use of this opportunity, but wider world events would make things very tough for many farmers. China was buying less dairy and Russia had banned all agricultural product imports (including dairy), which has clearly had an enormous impact on livelihoods across the continent.

In such times it might be difficult for dairy farmers to stay positive. Costs are higher than income, and it’s no fun feeling you don’t have any breathing space.

It’s all about making choices, and for many of us it means wearing the same pair of jeans for another season. There won’t be a new tractor or any home improvements for me this year!

That bit of income we are able to invest is best spent in producing cows that stay healthy, and this is what I mean by boosting a cow’s health margin. It’s about giving them that extra capacity to deal with any potential difficulties they might experience.

A cow that’s well-fed and taken care of has more ‘fat on the bones’ to overcome any issues. By not cutting costs in preventing disease or the quality and quantity of the feed, we’re more likely to have a truly sustainable operation.

And surely this is even more important in a year when we need to tighten our belts (on the same pair of jeans!).

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