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Monday, July 25, 2016
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New calculator illustrates the on-farm cost of livestock diseases

Beef, Veal, Sheep, Goat and Rabbit producers please click on the applicable link below to download the calculator for your sector:

If you have any questions on how to use the calculator please download the user guide.

A new cost calculator model is now available to help the livestock industry put a price tag on disease outbreaks. The program, built in an Excel spreadsheet, will calculate the financial impact of moderate or severe outbreaks of specific diseases on beef, veal, sheep, goat and rabbit farms. This includes Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVD) in cattle, mycoplasmosis in veal, Q fever in sheep, Caprine-Arthritis-Encephalitis (CAE) in goats and pasteurellosis in rabbits.

Producers must input a series of data in the spreadsheet, such as feed costs, average daily gain, mortality rates and others depending on the particular commodity, in order for the model to generate results.

For example, an outbreak of BVD in a beef herd can cost an operation $65,000 - $268,000 depending on the severity of the disease, as the model showed using a base herd case built on data gathered from real Ontario producers. A similar example of an outbreak of CAE on a dairy goat operation resulted in costs between $4,000 and $209,000 due to increased culling rates and decreases in daily gain, milk production and conception rates.

The goal behind the disease model, says Richard Horne of the Ontario Cattlemen’s Association, is to get farmers thinking about what impact a disease outbreak will have on the profitability of their operations. Horne is part of a steering committee overseeing the project that also includes representatives from the veal, goat, sheep, rabbit and farm service provider sectors, as well as government representatives.

"In the short term, we’d like to draw attention to the importance of disease prevention methods on-farm and get producers starting to think about best management practices," says Horne. "This calculator is a good way to get producers to do some reflection on their own operations to reduce disease risks on their farms. And because you need your own farm data in order to run the model, it underlines the need to keep good records."

Many livestock farmers already use break-even calculators to see where their costs are, adds Horne, explaining that although the model has been built to address specific diseases, it will still generate a general picture of the impact on a farm’s bottom line if, for example, gain were to be reduced by a certain percentage.

In the long term, food safety and disease prevention through biosecurity are tied to traceability. This issue will become of increasing importance as governments work to ensure the highest standards of food safety and quality are met, no one wants a disease outbreak or a recall scare," says Horne. "This is also vitally important for our export markets. It is an issue that transcends societal segments. It’s an issue for government, consumers, markets and producers."

He encourages farmers to view the disease model as another tool to be used in managing risk. If reducing the impact of disease on farm is part of an operation’s greater risk mitigation strategy, this tool is a good way to visualize what could happen in a disease outbreak scenario.

"This is a management and decision-supporting tool and if it encourages record keeping and increasing awareness of biosecurity, then it has done its job," he says.

For more information, please contact the Ontario Livestock Alliance at info@livestockalliance.ca or (519) 824-2942.

This project is part of a new, multi-phase project partnership between Ontario Veal, Ontario Goat, Ontario Rabbit, Ontario Sheep, and Ontario Cattlemen’s Association to identify, quantify and address biosecurity gaps and build the livestock industry’s emergency preparedness capabilities.

This project was funded in part through Growing Forward, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of several Growing Forward programs in Ontario.

By Lilian Schaer, Agri-Food Project Services Ltd.


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