Herd and Flock Health: An important step in animal management

Written by: Bria Osborne, OVC 2026

Edited by: Dr. Paisley Canning

Herd health or flock health is an important aspect of animal management. Herd health visits and programs aren’t just for large commercial herds. All herds of different species and sizes can benefit from a herd health program.  

What is herd/flock health?  

Herd health refers to the prevention, treatment, and monitoring of disease and illness within a group of animals (figure 1)

Figure 1: Herd health is made up of disease prevention, treatment, and monitoring.

Why is it important?

Herd health offers you and your animals tailored health care. The following are some points as to why herd health is important. 

  • Illness affecting one animal may be contagious or harmful to your other animals.  
  • Herd health allows your veterinarian to provide regular insight and ongoing assessments of your management. Having herd health consults provides a set time for you and your veterinarian to have proactive and detailed conversations about management that you otherwise might not get by just having the vet out on a one off emergency call. 
  • Your vet can make recommendations to help you achieve your goals. Herd health is specific to your herd and is not a one size fits all approach. Whether your goal is to have your animals live a long life, produce food, or produce fiber, herd health can help set you on the right track to achieving your goals.  
  • Herd health has a focus on preventative health management. Some preventative herd health procedures include vaccines, castrations, fecal tests, and deworming. Being mindful and prepared for disease events before they happen will help decrease the likelihood that those events will occur within your herd. Preventative health also involves preventing “oops” situations such as accidental pregnancies, accidental litters, animal injuries, and infections caused by diseases that have vaccines.   
  • When buying or receiving new animals, your veterinarian can help you mitigate and prevent disease spread by advising you on best practices and giving you the resources needed for successful integration. 
  • Having your vet come out and do a herd health exam on your animals makes them familiar with your animals. Some problems are slow to develop, and you may not notice them when you see the animals every day. Having your vet out regularly can allow for a fresh set of trained eyes to see subtle problems over time (example weight loss or decreasing hair coat quality). 
  • Regular herd health consults with your veterinarian can allow for quick response times if you and your veterinarian find a problem. Early detection of many health issues increases prognosis for your animals and quick mitigation efforts can decrease the chance of it spreading to the rest of the population. 
  • Your vet can provide you with the latest updates on new medications, changes in availability of certain products or drugs, the ongoing vet shortage, and best practices for animal management. Your vet is also a trusted and accountable source of scientific and factual information on the medical issues that your animals may be experiencing (more accurate and safer than Facebook advice). Providing you with accurate resources on animal husbandry and medical information is another way your vet is able to support you.  
  • To receive emergency coverage for your animals, your vet will require that you have a working relationship with them. Getting a regular herd health consult not only proves to be beneficial in the moment, but also allows for emergency coverage in the future.  

What are some topics that can be covered during a herd health appointment  

Herd health appointments can be specially tailored to your herd and operation. Having your vet be familiar with your goals allows them to access what areas of health should be covered in each appointment. The following are some (but not all) topics covered at a herd health consult.  

No matter what you use your animals for or how big your herd is, your veterinarian is here to help you make the best decisions for your animals. Contact Dr. Canning if you would like to book a herd health appointment.  You can contact the clinic at [email protected], or on facebook.com/upperthamesvs. 

Last updated on August 9th, 2023.