Merck Animal Health has developed a series of apps to help beef producers and dairy operators plan and document comprehensive health protocols for their herds. The “Herd Health Manager” app currently is available for cow-calf producers, and a “Cattle Treatment Manager” app and a “Dairy Herd Health” app are in final development for release early in 2016. 

Merck technical services veterinarian Kevin Hill, DVM, says each of the apps is intended to help veterinarians provide expanded herd-health services to clients and to facilitate the development of veterinarian-client-patient relationships, or VCPR. This is becoming increasingly important, as upcoming changes to the FDA’s Veterinary Feed Directive rules will require veterinary oversight, in the context of a valid VCPR, for producers to purchase and use most antibiotics delivered in feed.

The, Herd Health Manager app, currently available on iTunes, is designed to help veterinarians develop customized herd health protocols for cow/calf producers. The system includes templates and product details for critical production stages including pre-breeding, pregnancy check, calving, branding, and weaning, as well as veterinary certification of completion of the health program. The app serves as an easy reference for producers to keep up with vaccinations and other health events, and to ensure adequate doses of vaccines and other products are available at the times they are needed. Veterinarians can access client information remotely to ensure protocols are followed or to make adjustments to protocols if needed.

The Cattle Treatment Manager app, which will become available in early 2016, is targeted primarily to small to mid-sized cattle-feeding operations. These feedlots, Hill says, often do not have commercial database software for maintaining treatment records. The app will help them work with their veterinarians to set up treatment protocols and maintain comprehensive records on treatments and outcomes, for management purposes and to help ensure compliance with antibiotic withdrawal times and judicious use guidelines.

The Dairy Herd Health app, also scheduled for release in early 2016, works in a similar fashion as Herd Health Manager, with adaptations specific to the dairy production system and considerable flexibility and customization options for individual operations. The protocols, for example, are built around management of each class of animals, rather than being calendar-based as in a cow-calf production system.

The app includes an overall profile of the operation, including numbers of calves, heifers and lactating cows typically in production. Working together, producers and veterinarians will input protocols, including schedules of events such as vaccinations, and identify which products to use based on days of age, days pre- or post-weaning, pre- or post-calving, dry-off, etc. The app provides an annual summary that includes estimates of necessary product purchases and scheduling. It also serves as an easy reference for dairy crews involved in executing the operation’s health protocols. As with the beef version, the veterinarian can access a client’s information remotely to review protocols if problems emerge.

Most importantly, Hill says, the app will facilitate interaction between veterinarians and clients, encouraging them to work together in designing protocols and selecting products specific to the goals and environment within each operation, and in monitoring and adjusting their herd-health programs over time.