Trimming fresh cow losses and reducing treatment costs are crucial steps to winning the tight margins game in which your owner and everyone in our industry is now engaged.
I want to help you help your owner with some simple ideas about how you can minimize fresh cow cull losses.
Your may be one of the workers on the fresh cow team that are or do these four things: you may be the coach; or one of the players; you play according to “the rules”; and you play for one purpose – to win.
Many large dairies have workers who seem coachless; yet without supervision a team isn’t a team. Look at Phil Jackson, the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, as an example. Over his illustrious coaching career it was he who worked with the superstars and the everyday players to win championships when other coaches failed with the same players. I see herd owners and managers who expect maternity technicians, herdsmen and feeders to know what and how to do everything on their own. That simply doesn’t work. The coach must assemble the team, define the players’ roles and force compliance. Without that coaching, good workers fail to calve cows properly, treat sick fresh cows correctly, feed transition cows accurately and fail to focus on doing the right thing. Workers that follow and do what good bosses say are generally on winning teams.
The fresh cow team includes maternity personnel, herdsman and his/her workers and the feeder. Each player has a critical role. Birth canal tissue can be stretched, torn and then become more susceptible to infection when maternity technicians don’t assist calvings with appropriate hygienic procedures and manipulations. Sick fresh cows won’t be identified early and treated aggressively if herdsmen don’t evaluate each individual fresh animal daily and examine the sick cow candidates correctly. Conversely, drugs are wasted and treatment costs escalate when inappropriate overtreatment is used in place of good judgment by trained and focused workers. Transition cows will suffer from indigestion, DA’s and ketosis if feeders don’t monitor and react to variations in feed consumption daily.
Competency results from trained workers who want to work the way they were taught. Players on championship teams come to every practice and every game with the attitude to go “all out” and do it right. If you come to work every day with that attitude and focus on your job, you can feel the success of being part of a winning team.
SOP’s and protocols are the “rules by which players play”. They are the “this is how we do it here” of the game plan. When your herd owner or manager explains or writes out protocols, he/she expects that you understand and will follow them. These rules are not intended to limit your experience or judgment. Rather they are the guides that your owner with his veterinarian and nutritionist believe are the best for his cows and his business. He/she expects and wants you to follow them. If they are unclear or if you have questions about why or how to follow them, ask! For example, if you are the maternity person, you should be taught the signs of labor and be given criteria about when and how to intervene when dystocias occur. If you don’t know or have these, it is better to ask and learn than to not ask and make mistakes. You need protocols to define exactly how to process post-calving fresh cows and how and when to feed colostrum. If you work in the maternity area of your dairy and don’t have these guidelines, ask your boss about what to do. If you are the herdsmen you need to learn specific criteria to evaluate fresh cows from the front and from behind to identify potential sick animals. You need SOP’s to examine and diagnose these candidates and protocols to treat them. SOP’s and protocols are the play book from which coaches coach and players learn.
While working from herd to herd, I see fresh cow involuntary cull rates as low as less than four percent in some herds but greater than fifteen percent in other herds (number of dead and culled animals less than 60 days in milk divided by the number of animals that calved during the same period of time). So what is “winning” for you and for your workers? If the dairy owner or manager has established goals and computes results each month, he/she will show you how your results compare with goals. I suggest monitoring dead and culls less than 60 days in milk (D&C < 60 DIM) and monitoring dead on arrival (DOA) rates monthly. If you want to know how well you and your fellow workers are doing, here are my suggestions to evaluate how you do:
When goals are set and information is collected daily, the dairy owner or manager can show you your results each month. You will know if you are winning!
Winning isn’t everything, it is the only thing in today’s tough economic times. Your dairy owner or manager is counting on you to be part of a winning team. If you do your part, you will keep your job and feel good about being on that winning team. EL
Dr. Tom Fuhrmann DVM
Consultant and owner of Dairy Works
This article topic also appears in Progressive Dairyman. This article has been written specifically for dairy employees. The article in Progressive Dairyman is written for dairy owners and herdsmen.
El Lechero recommends dairy teams read the articles and then discuss how to apply these principles on their own dairies.