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118.705 Decision Making with Animal Health Data (15 credits)

Course coordinator: Chris Compton BVSc, MVS (Epidemiology), PhD

This single-semester course covers topics related to utilising health, production and economic data to support decision making for programmes that manage animal health and productivity. This course focuses on applying the principles of evidence-based medicine, production monitoring, and decision-making at the farm level in a practical way. A broader context is provided of the structure and operation of veterinary services, industry-level process control, and the importance of animal health economics.

Please note: Courses are revised following each offering. Details of content and assessment are subject to change between offerings.

What will you learn?

Students who successfully complete this course should be able to:

  • Analyse herd or flock animal health data and compare the findings against industry benchmarks to identify shortcomings in disease control and productivity.

  • Evaluate information from industry and research publications to assess the relative costs and benefits of different interventions available to manage herd or flock health or production.

  • Formulate plans to implement and monitor herd health and production interventions to ensure that improvements have been made.

  • Identify any potential public health concerns present in different clinical scenarios and recommend appropriate strategies to mitigate their impact.

  • Effectively communicate with key decision makers and colleagues to develop goals that align with the farmer’s objectives and resource limitations.

How the course works

This is course aims to provide practical skills that can be applied by animal health professionals that work with clients who own production animals. Course materials include a printed guide to your reading and assessment which integrates online learning activities such as discussions, quizzes, lessons, library searches, critical evaluation and exercises for self-assessment with reading materials and personal study tasks.

Your Coordinator

Chris Compton is a veterinary epidemiologist with a broad background in clinical practice and research. He invested his early career into clinical practice in New Zealand, mainly with production animals and increasingly with dairy cattle. He worked as a research project manager with “Cognosco” in veterinary practice in the Waikato, and graduated with a Masters of Veterinary Studies (Epidemiology) in 2006 having gained additional skills needed for that role. He joined the EpiCentre in 2017 and graduated with a PhD on “The epidemiology of culling and mortality of New Zealand dairy cows” in 2018.

Chris’s research interests are primarily those from his work and academic career: mastitis, reproduction, nutrition and metabolic disorders in dairy cattle. The main themes of his research experience have involved studies in commercial herds on mastitis in dairy heifers, anovulatory anoestrous and oestrous synchronisation programmes, hyperketonaemia or subclinical ketosis, and most recently, the extent and causes of culling and mortality. In these studies he used a range of analytic methods, including those suitable for hierarchical, survival and spatial data types. Chris is focused on providing strategies for farmers that will enhance the health, productivity and welfare of their animals.

Course features

In-depth part-time study spread over a single-semester. Plan to allow 10-15 hours per week to pass the course, but a greater time commitment may be required for top marks.

Learning materials and facilities

  • Study guide
  • 5-day face to face workshop
  • Electronic library access

Learning community

  • Online discussion facilitated
  • Social forum


  • Assessment will be made through a test and two written assignments (30%, 30% and 40% of the total course mark, respectively).*
  • Assessment weightings are subject to change until the beginning of the semester in which the course is delivered.
  • Specific dates for assessments will be finalised in information provided on Stream at the start of the Course.


  • Internet access
  • Textbook: there is no textbook required for this course
  • Students are expected to understand New Zealand farming systems including dairy, beef, sheep and deer. Those with limited understanding are advised to familiarise themselves with relevant content in Livestock Production in New Zealand in: Stafford K (Ed). Livestock Production in New Zealand. Massey Press, Palmerston North, 2017


See Massey’s fee calculator for this information.

contact WORKSHOP (contact course)

A contact course will be held at the Manawatu Campus between Monday 2 September, 2019 and Friday 6 September, 2019. The main aim of the contact course is to build on the knowledge you’ve gained on the course through small group teaching, practical sessions and discussions of experiences in your own practice. The contact workshop is an opportunity for face-to-face time with your class and lecturer and to build relationships for your future professional life. Attendance is compulsory.

dates and timings*

Enrolments open dates to be advised
Course start dates to be advised
Course end dates to be advised

*Please note: You can still apply for enrolment after the due dates above. Places cannot be assured after these due dates; but late applications will be considered as long as remaining places are available.