Dairies in the Texas Panhandle are different from the swine operations she used to work with, but Angela Daniels, DVM, has found them to be an excellent place to help her clients succeed. Daniels, of Circle H Animal Health, Dalhart, Texas, uses a variety of tools, measurements and evaluations to measure different parameters such as teat condition, lameness and SCC data.
She’s also developed simplified protocols that include photos of products used so non-English-speaking workers won’t get health products confused. Everything she does, including the updated evaluations, are printed off at the dairy and included in the appropriate section in a three-ring binder she’s created for the individual dairy.
Daniels customizes protocols and adds pictures to ensure the correct products are used.
Protocols with pictures
Written protocols are valuable to have on the dairy, but with the variety of products used for different groups of animals from calves to lactating cows for any number of health issues, knowing which product to use might sometimes be confusing, especially for non-English speakers.
Daniels solved this problem (see example) by developing and writing the protocols on the computer and adding small photos of the actual bottles and boxes to help facilitate employees in the correct usage. “I’m a visual type of person, meaning that I’d much rather look at something than read something to gather information,” she explains. “As I began to learn more Spanish, I quickly realized that some material tends to get lost in translation, so it made sense to use more pictures and photos in my client materials and have less of a chance of having things incorrectly translated.”
Angela Daniels, DVM, uses a variety of evaluation and other tools on the dairy.
Daniels says using photos in protocols keeps the protocols simple, and she tries to keep the language as straightforward and brief as possible. The protocols also appear less intimidating. “Nearly anyone can understand them, and they do not have to ask many questions for clarification.” This also simplifies life because you don’t have a set of protocols that is written both in English and in Spanish, and you don’t get bogged down with too much copy on one sheet. “This makes protocol modifications very simple,” she says.
Protocols are no good if dairy team members don’t understand them. Daniels personally reviews these protocols with all levels of the team. “The dairy manager and I generally put the protocols together. When the manager is happy with the protocol, I will train the department manager and the team members and make procedural modifications where needed. The manager and I decide the best and most
cost-effective protocol for the dairy, and the department managers and I figure out the most efficient way to accomplish the protocol.”
Daniels laminates and posts the protocols in the appropriate work area, whether it’s the hospital or the calf area. A main notebook is kept in the main office so additional copies can easily be made as needed, and all managers have notebooks of the protocols for their areas. Daniels also gives the managers articles and supporting materials from time to time to add to their notebooks and give them some continuing education.
Daniels routinely scores teats and imports the data into contol charts.
Teat scoring is a valuable tool that can indicate problems with mastitis, the environment, poor teat sanitation and milking-machine dysfunction. Daniels scores teats once a month in her herds that request the service. “We attempt to track major changes that impact teat end health,” she says. “This enables us to interpret and understand the changes that occur over time and decide if action is necessary or if the change was a normal response to a known stimulus.”
Daniels scores 10 percent of the animals with a minimum of 30 animals for calculating averages. She says you have to decide which populations need to be scored. “We monitor two groups – fresh cows that are milked twice as often as their cohorts, and the remainder of the herd that is milked 2 times or 3 times.”
To make this task time-efficient, Daniels separates the populations. These populations may be milked in different frequencies, housed differently, be a different age, have a different origin, be a different breed, etc.
Next, she scores throughout the length of time that population is in the parlor. “I may collect one-third of my scores randomly when the first cows are milking, one-third randomly at the middle of milking and the final one-third randomly at the end of milking.”
Once the data is collected (see example), it is entered into a spreadsheet and imported into control charts. “Our control charts plot an average for the data set, upper and lower control limits which are equal to three standard deviations from the mean, and the actual average for that date.” Cohort groups are graphed individually, and control charts are created for average teat end scores and the percent of scores above 3.5. Daniels notes that the scoring system is the one developed by Leo Timms, PhD, Iowa State University.
Lameness scoring cows can give you a heads up on nutrition and cow comfort problems.
Daniels says a score of 3.5 indicates a crack in the skin. “This is a significant event and makes a natural breakpoint for the data,” she explains. “I include these control charts in my farm visit reports and discuss these with the managers.” Though there’s not an absolute cure for cracked teat ends, Daniels says when she sees an increase in these scores she expects to see an increase in mastitis. This information is then communicated to the folks maintaining the freestalls. “The stalls may be bedded more frequently and more attention is taken to clean them as cows are pushed up for milking. This information is used as an indicator to look at other management areas.”
When teat scoring, red flags vary between herds, Daniels says. “The value in using KPI or control charts is that they immediately tell you if a data point is a red flag or within the norm.” So she follows the rule of one point outside the upper or lower control limit. “We do see seasonal differences, and the control limits are reset to allow for this trend. Once cold weather hits and temperature fluctuations occur, our scores increase.”
Goals for teat scoring are to have all cows between a score of 1 to 2.5, says Daniels. “In the winter we know that scores will rise, but our goal is for continuous improvement from the previous year.”
Daniels also likes to lameness score her herds. She follows much of the same protocol as teat scoring, as far as frequency of scoring, percent of animals, groups of animals, etc. She graphs the average score and percent of cows who are scored 3 or higher (see example). Daniels uses the scale from Zinpro corporation to lameness score.
Daniels would like to see all cows scoring between 1 and 2. “Our herd goal is to be below 2 and we would like to see the percent of lame cows – the percent of scores at 3 or above – to be as low as possible with continuous improvement.”
Daniels also keeps somatic cell count data, milk culture results, serum protein levels of calves, drug costs and other important information. She often keeps these charts up on the wall and updates them as needed.
“People like feedback,” she says. “If you post the information where employees can see it, they understand you look at it and it’s important to you, then this information becomes important to them. They begin to ask questions. Even in this information age, we are still starved for information and feedback. I firmly believe that people who care about what they do will perform better. Taking the time to provide feedback shows them you care about them and the job they are doing.”
As mentioned earlier, Daniels corrals all of this information in a customized notebook for each dairy. Within the notebook is included protocols, reports, control charts, milk culture results, articles of interest for managers and employees and other information.
Daniels updates this notebook quarterly or whenever she has new information. “We try to have re-training sessions quarterly in each department,” she says. “We modify the notebook and protocols as needed. It’s really important to retrain and sit down and re-discuss protocols with the dairy team. We tend to stray or make changes without everyone else knowing, and sometimes they are not good changes.”
She likes to go over scoresheets and reports with the dairymen and their employees when they are updated. “Most will come in the office and go straight to the notebook during my visit, and we discuss things at that time or when I’m wrapping up for the day.”