Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Keynote lecture economics of production diseases

Last monday, I gave an invited keynote presentation on Economics of production diseases on the World Buiatrics Conference, which this year is being held in Lisbon, Portugal. The world buiatrics conference is aimed at practising bovine veterinarians. Although I am close to vets, I am not a vet myself so this was the first time I was present at a World Buiatrics Conference, and I have to say, it was/is a pleasant experience. The conference is very well organized, enough practical as well as scientificially interesting content and a good atmosphere. I understood there are about 2500 registrants and you do not notice that during the meeting. For those that are interested, the next meeting will be in 2014 in Cairns (Australia; I could not find a website yet).

Anyhow, back to the contents, within the session Epidemiology and animal health economics, I had to present a 45 min keynote presentation entitled Economics of Production Diseases. It was great that the room was packed. All seats were full and people were standing in the back to see this presentation. The topic is hot!!! And that is logical, since the milk prices are becoming more and more volatile, farmers are worrying about costs and benefits more and more. Advices of veterinarians costs money, that is clear, but how much can be earned and will improved prevention be cost-effective. This is the link to this presentation.

In the presentation I gave an overview of the way we should look at production diseases from an economic point of view. Moreover, I gave our latest results on costs of mastitis, of foot disorders and on metabolic disorders. Moreover, I provided data that shows that these costs vary a lot between farmers. So working with average costs of diseases will not be a good thing, since the average farm does not exist, also not when economics of diseases are regarded. Finally I presented some data on the cost-effectiveness of preventive measures. The details can be found in the presentation, but the bottomline is that the costs of preventive measures are relatively easy to estimate. The benefits, though, are much harder to estimate. Not much scientific literature is available to quantify the effects of implementation of preventive measures. That means we have to use expertise, the so called "guestimates". While we did that we found that not all possible preventive measures are cost-effective. Some of them are, some of them are not.

To conclude, this means that when proposing improved disease management the advisor:
1. should be aware of the costs of diseases on a specific farm
2. should try to make a farm-specific estimate of the effect of the measure
3 should have some idea about the costs and benefits of these measures to be a good counter-part of the farmer in his/her animal health decisions.

We have some tools developed ( and I hope we can develop some more in the future) that will support advisors in this task. They can be found the website of the Business Economics group of Wageningen University.

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