Next year Shepparton vet Dr. Rob Bonanno will clock up 30 years in the industry. For the Balmain boy who grew up on the Northern suburbs of Sydney, Rob can’t think of anything else he would rather do.
“When I was young, I just liked the idea that the vet can be involved in the farm and all the stuff that goes with fixing problems. I had grown up in the northern suburbs of Sydney which back in the day was semi-rural so there were plenty of animals around.”
Rob is well respected in the industry having spent more than a decade juggling being a vet and dairy farmer with his wife, Julie. He was also President of the Australian Cattle Veterinarian group from 2010 to 2012 and on the Board of Directors for five years with the Australian Veterinary Association. “It was my turn to give back to the profession that had given me so much,” Rob says.
He also has the unique insights from completing post graduate study in the USA and more recently working in China for a year as vet director for Fonterra’s International Farming Venture. That was just after he sold his dairy farm which he had run for 14 years.
“China was an amazing experience. The biggest herds were around 7,000 milking cows. It was about treating the herd as a collective, not as just individual animals. We looked at where the weak points were and put plans in place.”
When he returned to Shepparton in 2016, Rob began working with Coomboona Dairies It was not long after his return from China that he also had in the back of his mind an idea for setting up a whole herd health consultancy partnership plan. “You get busy and I put it on the back burner.”
Rob joined Apiam Animal Health in January 2019 with one of the primary aims being to help develop a herd health partnership plan with the Apiam team. Prodairy is the result.
“I am incredibly proud of Prodairy…It is such a great program. With all the resources and tools we have developed it would have been impossible for me as an individual to do it.
“We spent considerable time looking at what services we should try to deliver on farms over and above just being called out when something went wrong. We wanted to develop a program that added value and was based more on prevention than cure.
“We wanted to help manage risks around animal health by bundling existing Apiam resources, various industry tools and by creating a whole range of new resources and tools that add value and make us easy to transact with”.
“Apiam has a unique software package that enables us to link the medications prescribed in our treatment protocols to an agreed medicine list (AML) that feeds into the products that farmers are able to order and use with an unprecedented level of compliance and oversight.
“No two farms are the same, so where a farm saves money varies depending on things like location, herd size and sophistication. It could relate to improving a cow’s colostrum which can set a calf up for a much better life, changes to calf protocols that results in fewer diseases and deaths or working with the farmer on a targeted treatment plan for mastitis.
A huge selling point of the Prodairy herd health partnership is the ease of doing business with us, using the personalised online portal, and the great product prices that farmers pay due to the efficiencies of the Apiam network
“We want to be able to improve herd health and animal welfare by our proactive approach, make farms more profitable; to improve their bottom line; It is not just about getting cheaper medications. There is so much value in the services delivered around preventative care, biosecurity, treatment protocols, calf rearing… the list goes on – many things that are not usually part of a standard vet consultation, we are changing the model of dairy medicine to something that is more like what is needed by farmers in the 21st Century and that is why I am so proud of what we have achieved.” Rob said
The benefits in being part of the Apiam network which has grown to over 150 vets, is the support from other vets. “If I don’t know the answer, someone in the network will. That is priceless. That is one of the points we are trying to get across to the farmers. They don’t just get me but a team of vets and access to some amazing resources and programs.
Third generation southwest Victorian dairy farmers discuss ProDairy and their farm.
Skeeta Verhey talks ProDairy and his Koondrook dairy farm – Marleigh Park.
Dr Craig Wood provides a vet’s perspective on ProDairy – Terang & Mortlake Vet Clinic.