Planning and development of the Vermont Cattle Health Improvement Project (VCHIP) is nearing completion and is anticipated to begin in about a month. The $85,000+ remaining appropriation from the Legislature and a $15,000 grant from the George Walker Foundation will give the project approximately a $100,000 budget.
The primary purpose of the project is to educate producers and veterinarians about Johne's disease by engaging them in a process of evaluating each individual herd's status and risk for Johne's disease and identifying specific management practices that can be implemented to prevent or control the disease on the farm. In this process, the project will introduce the use of an on-farm risk assessment for Johne's, strategic use of diagnostic testing and the development of individualized herds plans. These same concepts can be expanded upon to address other important cattle health and quality issues on the farm.
Incentives for participation will include support of costs for diagnostic testing up to $315 for each herd, and an additional reimbursement of up to $250-$350 to cover the costs of the veterinarians' services in the project. In order for as many farms to participate through as many veterinarians as possible, veterinarians will be asked to select up to two herds to begin in the pilot project. A summary of the results for the VCHIP survey that was sent to over 1,800 cattle producers in Vermont is also nearly complete. The purpose of the survey was to highlight some key concepts in cattle health management and disease control, to identify priority concerns for health risks on Vermont cattle farms, and to determine the level of producer interest and need for cattle health programs.
Of approximately 1,800 surveys sent to both dairy and beef producers in the state, about 310, or 17%, were completed and returned. The survey has been successful in demonstrating both the need for, and interest in, a comprehensive herd health management and disease control program in Vermont.