Opportunity: Work with your veterinarian to develop and implement specific protocols for keeping complete treatment records. Be willing to pay him or her for this important service. Record the disease being treated, not just the drug that was given. If you don’t know what is being treated or multiple diseases are lumped together with one treatment, you can’t evaluate treatment effectiveness. Record who gave the treatment, even when no treatment is given, because accountability reduces protocol drift. The decision to not treat should be recorded and evaluated, too.
3. Dairy management software was under-utilized for health records. Nearly 90 percent of dairies used an on-farm dairy management software. Yet only a little more than half of them used it to record the diseases evaluated. And even when disease episodes were recorded, the treatment often wasn’t. Common dairy management software can track milk and meat withdrawal times of treated cows, but fewer than half of dairies make use of those features. Often, this is true because no one knows how to properly set them up.
Opportunity: Take some time to become more familiar with all the functions of your computer software. These tools can help standardize your records for easy use and review. The software is designed to make record-keeping easier, improve the quality of your health records and reduce our residue risk. You also can ask your veterinarian to help you make the best use of your dairy management software, and be willing to pay for his or her guidance.
4. Nearly 60 percent of herds treated metritis with an antibiotic not labeled for that use (extra-label use). For a drug to have a specific use on its label, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that it has been shown to be safe and effective for that use. Extra-label drug use is allowed with a veterinarian’s prescription if the product labeled for that use is not clinically effective. Accurate, consistent health records are needed to evaluate the clinical efficacy of treatments whether or not they have a label for a given use. Without evidence, biased perceptions can result in penny-wise but dollar-foolish treatment decisions.
Opportunity: Ask your veterinarian to help you establish accurate and consistent health records on the dairy that allow you to make informed decisions, and be willing to pay for those services. Don’t let the last catastrophic treatment failure or miraculous cure (perceptions) guide therapy. Until you have better evidence, go with the labeled product. The FDA says it works, and it’s the law.
Capitalizing on these opportunities should improve the quality of health records that are the basis for the consistent, effective management of health on the dairy and for avoiding violative drug residues. Including your veterinarian helps establish and maintain the veterinary-client-patient-relationship needed for prescription and extra-label drug use, and it ensures the health and productivity of your herd.
John Wenz is a member of the veterinary medicine faculty and field disease investigation unit at Washington State University.