Scotland produces some of the finest quality beef, lamb and dairy products in the world. Health schemes, disease control, extensive grazing and a temperate climate are great conditions for rearing livestock.

Following the recent global pandemic; We're all now familiar with how easy disease can spread and the measures used to control them.

Reducing populations mixing, surveillance and vaccination are the cornerstone of disease control. This was true for Covid-19 but it is also fundamental for the control of livestock disease.

Herd Health Plans

In the age of responsible medicine use and herd health plans, it is becoming more routine to measure our animal health. From fertility performance, cull rates, mastitis and lameness incidence, to antibiotic usage. Using this data, we can have valuable, targeted discussions about areas to focus on going forward. Improving animal health and reducing medicine use.

The culture of health planning is changing, for the better. From the roots of veterinary education to milk and meat buyers, there is growing support for the livestock industry to reduce disease and produce healthy products.

Biosecurity is such an important part of health planning, it’s all about keeping diseases out. Bought in animals are by far the most common route for farms to get new diseases.

Our pig and poultry industries are leaders in biosecurity and disease control. Closed units keep out contagious diseases, disease surveillance and preventative medicine provide further reduction.

Some farms using AI can operate closed herds but it is harder for other farms to have total biosecurity. Hiring bulls and sharing tups, buying in breeding replacements are common routes for farms to get new diseases. Herds which actively manage their biosecurity, breeding their own replacements can achieve extremely low disease incidence.

Worryingly bovine TB is creeping further north and BVD is still common in parts of the UK. A BVD carrier was traced to a livestock show this year and we have seen an IBR outbreak in cattle returning from a show recently. These diseases can have a severe economic impact if they unknowingly enter a herd. Always be aware of the risks and protect your disease status.

Antibiotics are an essential tool in maintaining animal health and welfare on our farms. The treatment of an individual sick animal, which may require antibiotics, must be done responsibly and promptly to ensure animals do not suffer from treatable diseases.

Each herd health plan will have a treatment section, where together with your prescribing vet, you should only be using medicines contained within your health plan, use them responsibly for their intended, licenced reason.

The World Health Authority now have a list of critical antibiotics which need to be protected due to their value in an age of antibiotic resistances. We have plenty of alternative products to treat common veterinary diseases but it is our goal to not rely on their use at all.

Antibiotics are precious and regulated within the industry. They are prescription only medicines, which can legally only be used on prescription, dispensed from a vet or pharmacy. Antibiotic use can be a good indicator of animal health, their use can vary significantly from farm to farm. Respiratory disease, mastitis and lameness are still the biggest reasons for using antibiotics in livestock.

These diseases are complex and multifactorial. They have both contagious and environmental risk factors. Working closely with your vet to have a specific action plan for dealing with these conditions will help to reduce disease incidence and severity.

Disease Surveillance, Vaccination and Immunity:

Our vet laboratories have comprehensive tests we can use to investigate disease outbreaks, including modern PCR tests which have high sensitivity and specificity. Tests can be performed on the live animals but post-mortem material is also very useful when investigating disease outbreaks.

Our pharmaceutical companies have an excellent range of vaccines available to reduce the impact of many diseases but it is important to discuss which vaccine protocols are best suited to your farm with your own vet using evidence-based decisions.

Vaccines are the obvious way to deliver targeted specific immunity but good general health and nutrition, including treatment of specific trace element deficiencies allow the animals own immune systems to work more efficiently. Stress is also known to reduce immunity, so management procedures like, weaning, castration and dehorning should be avoided at risk periods.


Biosecurity, reduce animal movements, source high health replacements, test and protect.

Proactive disease surveillance and investigate disease outbreaks promptly, make use of modern laboratory testing.

Have an up-to-date herd health plan and monitor performance and medicine usage.

Always remember, prevention is better than cure for healthy livestock, so good animal welfare is always good for business.