Building resilience in the cow herd with a systems approach


  • Gerald Stokka Department of Animal Science North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND 58102
  • Jason Sawyer East Foundation, San Antonio, TX 78216



resilience, AUE, system



Veterinarians involved with bovine practice are the main source of information to clients related to animal well-being. To remain relevant and bring value to clients, we must move from the pathogen/disease paradigm to one that encompasses systems thinking, particularly as it relates to building resil­ience in the system. Systems thinking is the ability to identify related forces that are a part of the business of cattle raising. Animal health can be measured with objective indices such as morbidity and mortality, and inputs spent on antibiotic use and preventive vaccines. When animal health issues occur in well-managed herds, resist the temptation to only search for pathogens related to disease; instead, ask the appropriate ques­tions and seek out information necessary to identify the system of the ranch and look for ways to return to balance. Aspects of the system that must be addressed include genetic selection pressure, nutrition, grazing systems and management, envi­ronment, handling facilities, people behavior, competing enter­prises, and labor resources. Trust with clients is critical to com­munication and to implement strategies to regain resilience and balance in the system.