Missouri Dairy Business Update  
Volume 10, Number 4
April 2010

Economics of Health Expenses

Scott Poock, MU Extension Dairy Veterinarian

What are your veterinary costs on a yearly basis, for the whole herd or per cow?  Are these costs divided between cow and heifer development?  The Commercial Ag Dairy Team has created a spreadsheet to help estimate this cost.  The estimate will be categorized by calf, heifer, and cow costs for preventative measures as well as treatments. 

There are several databases that analyze a dairy business’s costs and incomes.  Typically, veterinary expenses account for approximately 5% of the total costs.  This amounts to $125 and $60 per cow on confinement and grazing dairies, respectively.  However, depending on the database, this may or may not include the calves and yearling heifers.  Likewise, in some accounting systems, other supplies (milk equipment, milkers’ gloves, BST, etc.) are included under the veterinary costs.

The spreadsheet allows you to include/exclude items to tailor the health costs to your farm.  Also, you can add in vaccinations and/or medications that are not listed.  The treatment costs are put in as individual but analyzed on a per cow and herd basis. 

The goal of the spreadsheet is not only to help estimate an expense but stimulate a discussion with your veterinarian.  The discussion should help you develop a herd health program specifically designed for your herd.  Similarly, if costs in an area are too high, you and your veterinarian can analyze the problem.  The desired outcome is to make your operation more profitable by including costs that are necessary with a return to you in prevention and/or treatment of diseases.  This can be accomplished by utilizing your veterinarian’s knowledge as an asset to your operation.
To download this spreadsheet, go the “Health and Reproduction” page on the Missouri Dairymen’s Resource Guide and click on “Health Expense Calculator” underneath the “Health Economics” section. 

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