A chalking system for fresh cows at Spring Grove Dairy in Brodhead, Wis., "helps us identify cows with special needs," says Dan Monson, manager at the 1,700-cow dairy. The chalking system works as follows:

  • A number written in green chalk on a cow's left hip identifies the day she freshened. For example, if she calved on Dec. 20, she will have a green "20" on her hip.
  • Pink chalk identifies "anything that was a challenge," such as a cow calving with twins or a cow that experienced a difficult calving.
  • Orange chalk identifies a cow that received antibiotic treatment.
  • Blue chalk means a cow received intrauterine treatment.
  • Green vertical chalk marks on the cow's rump tell how long she has been "normal," or not showing signs of illness.

For example, the cow shown above has two blue marks which means she received intrauterine treatment for two days. The four orange marks indicate four days of antibiotic treatment, and the green mark closest to her tailhead means she has been "normal" for one day. She will stay in the fresh pen until she receives at least three more green marks, Monson says.