Herd Health

Munster Bovine’s Herd Health programme was established in 2013 offering disease screening to dairy farmers in Munster and Galway. Designed by the Munster Bovines vet-led team our Herd Health programme is developed to maximise animal health, productivity and sustainability on Irish dairy farms through the effective management of disease within the herd.

The purpose of the programme is to enable herd owners to make changes to their management using the information returned from diagnostic testing and the expert advice that is provided at the one to one vet meetings.

The success of this programme is demonstrated by the steady year on year increase in the numbers of herd owners who avail of the service. In 2022, 2813 dairy farmers in Munster and Galway were signed up for one of the three herd health programmes on offer.  

The Munster Bovine herd health program offers several benefits to farmers and their herds:

The programme emphasises proactive measures to prevent diseases rather than solely relying on treatment. By implementing vaccination protocols and regular health monitoring dairy farmers can minimize the risk of disease outbreaks within their herds. This leads to reduced production losses, lower veterinary costs, and improved animal welfare. 

The essence of the programme is early disease detection. Early detection allows for prompt treatment and management, increasing the chances of a successful recovery and minimising the spread of infectious diseases. Timely intervention helps maintain the health and productivity of individual animals and the entire herd. 

The herd health programme prioritises animal welfare by ensuring that cows receive appropriate care, nutrition, and treatments. Improved animal welfare not only benefits the cows' quality of life but also contributes to better productivity and longevity. 

Healthy cows are more likely to have higher milk production, better reproductive performance, and improved growth rates. By maximizing productivity, farmers can increase their profitability without expanding the herd size, thus utilizing resources more efficiently and reducing environmental impacts. 

Munster Bovine provides farmers with access to a team of veterinary surgeons who offer guidance, advice, and support regarding herd health management. This assistance helps farmers make informed decisions about animal health, nutrition, and disease prevention strategies.  

The programme aims to ensure the long-term viability of farms by minimising the risk of disease outbreaks and production losses. By implementing preventive measures and early disease detection protocols, farmers can safeguard their herds' health, maintain consistent milk production, and reduce financial risks. This contributes to the economic sustainability and resilience of the farm operation. 

Knowing that your cows are healthy and performing as they should offers huge reassurance to herdowners. 

How does Munster Bovines Herd Health Programme contribute to Agricultural Sustainability?

The program focuses on proactive measures to prevent and control diseases within the herd. By implementing proper vaccination protocols, the program helps minimize the risk of disease outbreaks. This reduces the need for excessive antibiotic use, decreases the incidence of production losses, and promotes overall animal welfare. Healthier animals require fewer resources and interventions, leading to sustainable farming practices. 

A healthy herd is a productive herd. Munster Bovine's program aims to optimise animal health and well-being, resulting in increased productivity and efficiency. Healthy cows have higher milk production, better reproductive performance, and lower mortality rates. By enhancing productivity, farmers can achieve higher yields without expanding their herds, thereby reducing the environmental impact associated with increased resource consumption. 

The herd health program prioritises the welfare of animals. It ensures that cows receive the appropriate levels of care which is crucial for their well-being. By promoting good animal welfare practices, the program contributes to sustainable farming by minimizing stress and improving the overall health of the animals. Healthy and contented cows have a reduced environmental footprint. 

Sustainable farming involves maintaining the long-term viability of the farm. Munster Bovine's herd health program assists farmers in identifying and addressing health issues early on, preventing potential setbacks that could jeopardize the farm's profitability and continuity. By focusing on proactive healthcare and disease prevention, the program helps farmers sustain their operations over time, ensuring economic stability and reducing the risk of financial and environmental losses. 

The program indirectly contributes to environmental sustainability by minimizing the need for chemical inputs and reducing the environmental impact of livestock farming. By preventing disease outbreaks, the program reduces the use of antibiotics and other medications, minimizing their potential presence in the environment. Additionally, healthier animals are more efficient in converting feed into milk, reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with livestock production. 

How is the Herd Health testing completed?  

  1. Testing is a simple and convenient process.  

  1. Four samples of milk are taken from your bulk tank at four strategic times of the year by the truck driver when the milk is being collected.  

  1. It is important to note that not all diseases are tested for in each collection. The time of year in which the sample is collected governs which diseases are tested for in the collection as some diseases are more transmissible/prevalent at different stages of the year. 

  1. After each round of testing, the results are posted to the herd owner and/or made available on FarmOps (Munster Bovine’s Mobile Application) Alternatively, if the herd owner is participating in either the Gold or Silver programme results can be emailed to their own vet if requested (FOC).  

  1. If participating in either the Gold or Silver programmes, a member of the Herd Health team will be in contact with the herd owner to arrange a consultation with a Munster Bovine vet.  

What Diseases are being screened for in Herd Health programmes?

Disease Apr test Jun test Aug test Nov test
Liver Fluke
Stomach worms
Mycoplasma bovis
Q Fever


Bovine Viral Diarrhoea is a viral disease in cattle. There are a wide range of clinical signs including reproduction losses through abortion birth defects and infertility and weakening of the immune system leading to scouring and pneumonia. Calves that survive infection from their mothers during early pregnancy are born persistently infected (PI) with the virus and are likely to die before they are two years old.PI animals  are a source of infection for the rest of the herd. Huge progress has been made with the national eradication programme run by Animal Health Ireland, where PI calves are identified through ear notch testing and removed fom the herd. Bulk milk antibody testing is a useful tool, particularly in herds that are not vaccinating to monitor exposure to the virus.


IBR – Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis

(IBR) is caused by a herpes virus and infection results in respiratory disease and reduced production. The severity of the diseases can range from not apparent to severe and life threatening.  The virus remains in infected animals for life creating ‘latent’ carriers that spread the virus to healthy animals when stressed. It is estimated that between 70% and 80% of all Irish beef and dairy herds are ‘infected herds’. Bulk milk antibody screening is an extremely valuable tool to monitor herds and determine the disease status. As all IBR vaccines used in Ireland are ‘marker’ vaccines, the bulk tank test can distinguish herds that have been exposed to ‘wild’ virus and the impact of vaccination can be determined overtime.  p. Vaccination is excellent at controlling the disease as it reduces shedding in infected animals and protects uninfected animals. A robust vaccination programme will result in a gradual reduction in herd prevalence over time. 

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Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that can result in, milk drop syndrome, reduced fertility performance because of reduced conception rates or abortion and in some cases, mastitis.  The infection is endemic in Irish herds with very few herds testing negative in bulk milk screening. Vaccination is relatively inexpensive and  effective at controlling the disease. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease meaning it is transmissbale to people.  As the infection is shed in the urine of infected animals, milking cows poses a significant risk.  . Every herdowner should consider vaccinating their herd as it will both protect the herd and reduce the risk from this common disease for the people working with the animals. 

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There are two significant strains of salmonella bacteria that cause serious disease in cattle in ireland. Salmonella dublin can cause abortion and both strains cause severe scouring and wasting in adult cattle and calves.  Salmonella infections can be devastating. Bulk milk screening is a useful monitoring and early warning system  in  non-vaccinating herds. The bulk milk test also provides a useful guide to ensure antibodies from vaccination are at an acceptable level.

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Q Fever

Q fever is a bacterial infection that affects cattle. Clinical signs following infection appear to be mild and generally go unnoticed. The infection can be responsible for abortions in late pregnancy though is not well documented in Ireland.. The infection can be transmitted by ticks which would explain why closed herds can become infected. The calving fluids of infected animals spread the infection  during the calving season. The bacteria causes disease in humans, with the highest risk of infection occurring during the calving season. Exercise care and good hygiene practices when dealing with calving cows and caring for new-borns.

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Mycoplasma Bovis is a bacterial infection that affects cattle., It  causes severe and painful joint infections, contagious and incurable mastitis and respiratory disease in adult cattle.  Mycoplasma  causes severe joint infections, ear infections and is a significant cause of pneumonia in calves.. There is currently no vaccine available for Mycoplasma Bovis in Ireland. A positive bulk tank antibody test is not uncommon and does not mean that the disease is actively causing disease. Herds testing negative should endeavour to protect their status by focusing on biosecurity and avoiding buying in infected stock. Herds testing positive should be vigilant for the clinical signs of Mycoplasma and inform their veterinary practice immediately if suspicious of the disease.

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Neospora Caninum is a protozoal parasite that infects cattle. Canines are the definite host of the parasite, meaning it can complete its lifecycle in the dog or fox leading to eggs (oocysts) being shed in the faeces. Canines become infected from eating the afterbirth or the remains of an aborted foetus from an infected cow. Dogs become immune and stop shedding eggs. 

Horizontal infection occurs when cattle become infected by eating feed contaminated with infected dog faeces. However, cows once infected, will remain infected for life and any calf she produces will also be infected. This is called vertical transmission. Pregnant cows and heifers that are infected may abort and have a higher chance of being empty. . Control should focus on protecting cattle feed from contamination with dog and fox faeces and preventing afterbirths and aborted foetuses being eaten by  by canines. If the bulk tank readings are high, it may be necessary to individually test to identify positive animals. A useful test is to screen in-calf heifers in the last third of pregnancy to check for positives and use these results to find positive dams. Breeding replacements should be avoided from any positive animals.

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Liver Fluke

Liver Fluke is a parasite that migrates through the liver and lives in the bile ductsof cattle.Liver liver fluke infection is detrimental to animal performance and immunity. While cattle can develop good immunity to other parasites like stomach worm and lungworm, their ability to fight a liver fluke infection is poor. Bulk milk antibody testing is a sensitive test for Liver fluke and is s a useful method to monitor infection levels. . Multiple bulk tank tests for liver fluke indicate the effectiveness of winter treatment and the risk of acquiring new infections during the grazing season. Test results should be interpreted carefully in association with other diagnostic information such as results from dung samples and factory results from animals sent to slaughter.Effective winter dosing will lead to reduced pasture contamination in the following grazing season and reduce the risk of chronic liver fluke disease.  

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Stomach worms 

Ostertagia ostertagi is the most significant stomach worm in dairy cows. A high burden can lead to scouring, reduced feed intake and reduced performance. The bulk milk antibody testand is an indicator of exposure to the parasite and potential burden. Unlike liver fluke, adult cattle develop good immunity to this parasite. The bulk milk result should always be interpreted in conjunction with what is happening with the cows in termsof milk production, body condition score, and dung consistency to determine if a worm dose for the entire herd is justified or not. Currently, it is not possible to reliably screen the bulk milk sample for lungworm.

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In a Munster Bovine Herd Health report, the last four results will always be shown making it easier to see any recent trends. Each result is now colour coded, also making it easier to see the trends over time. The interpretation sheet is now also colour coded which will make it easier to find the text you are looking for and finally, the interpretation text pertaining to the last result is displayed alongside the most recent result .



Deciding on which Herd Health Programme to Choose 

A number of programme options are available to herd owners and can be discussed at the application stage. The majority of Dairy Co-Ops are supporting the Munster Bovine Herd Health Programmes through their respective Sustainability programmes. To find out if you quality for Co-Op price support, enquire at the application stage.

Herd Health Programme Options For Herd Owners Currently Milk Recording

Gold Programme Recommended
€399 /Herd
Testing and end of year vet meeting
  • Testing
  • Munster Vet phone support
  • One on One vet consultation
Silver programme
€330 /Herd
Testing and Munster Vet phone support
  • Testing
  • Munster Vet phone support
Bronze Programme
€280 /Herd
Testing only
  • Testing

Gold Programme

Gold Programme

  • Herdowners participating in the Gold Programme will have their bulk tank screened as per the disease testing schedule.

  • Phone Consultation support throughout the year with Munster Bovine Vet 

  • End of year one to one consultation with a Munster Bovine Vet on all aspects of disease, health, performance, SCC, fertility and genetics with Munster Bovine Vet. 

  • The year end consultation reviews
    • Production and Breeding - your herd's genetic potential and performance are established.
    • Disease and vaccination - Disease results are analysed and the herd vaccination plan is reviewed.
    • Parasites and dosing - Dosing history is reviewed, and plans are discussed. for the Winter and next grazing season.
    • SCC and mastitis - Milk recording results are analysed and reviewed.
    • Nutrition - You herd's milk recording data is analysed for evidence of negative energy and acidosis during lactation.
    • Johnes disease - If your herd is testing for Johnes through milk recording, your results will be available for analysis.

Silver Programme

Silver Programme

  • Herdowners participating in the silver programme will have their bulk tank milk screened as per the disease testing schedule.

  • Silver customers have access to a Munster Bovine Vet for phone consultation during the year and phone consultation support year through.
  • Results are posted to the herd owner, made available on FarmOps and with the herdowner's permission can be emailed to the herdowners nominated Vet.

Bronze Programme

Bronze Programme

  • Herdowners participating in the Bronze programme will have their bulk tank milk screened as per the disease testing schedule.
  • Results are posted to the herd owner and made available on FarmOps. 


Standard Herd Health Fee for all non Milk Recording customers for all programmes. €499/herd 

Johnes Programme 

Samples taken during Milk Recording €3.00 / test / cow

Milk Pregnancy Testing 

Samples taken during Milk Recording €4.35 / test / cow 

Please note that all results can be emailed on request to Herd Owner’s own Vet if participating in Gold or Silver programmes. 

In summary, Munster Bovine's herd health program promotes farm sustainability by preventing diseases, improving productivity, enhancing animal welfare, ensuring long-term farm viability, and reducing environmental impacts. By adopting recommended practices, farmers can achieve a balance between economic viability, environmental stewardship, and social responsibility. 


Herd Health and FarmOps

Customers using the Munster Bovine FarmOps app can view their most recent herd health results within the Herd Health module of the app. All previous / historical herd health test results are displayed in the App in an easy to use format showing the trends over time. This information is always available on your phone to assist with making Herd Health decisions with your vet and advisors.

To get started contact the Herd Management Team at Munster Bovine today on +353 22 43228

Get Your Free Trial of FarmOps here farmops.app.link/w0GpdNOr91


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