When Don Niles, DVM, was a practicing dairy veterinarian, a set of stainless steel calf-pulling chain handles would last him about 10 years. As a dairyman, he was frustrated to find that they had to be replaced as often as every 10 days. Niles recently shared his remedy to the problem with the audience at the Vita Plus Calf Summit in Green Bay, Wis.

Dairy Dreams LLC, Casco, Wis., has four maternity employees plus a maternity manager to supervise the daily calvings that take place on the 2,800-cow dairy. With so many people handling the equipment, Niles says no one took responsibility for it. In addition to chain handles being swept away with the bedding, colostrometers were regularly being dropped and broken, and he often was unhappy with equipment cleanliness.

Calving toolkits improve accountabilityThe solution: every calving employee was provided with a locked maternity “toolkit” that contains pulling chains and handles, a colostrometer, plastic sleeves, eartagger, flashlight and other tools essential to safe calf delivery.

If a piece of equipment is lost or prematurely broken, the replacement cost is deducted from the employee’s paycheck. Niles says this rarely happens, as employees now take full ownership of their toolkits. 

Cleanliness is checked periodically at team meetings, with the more experienced employees often demonstrating model sanitation to newer hires. “If their kit is not optimally clean, we ask that if his wife were togo to the hospital to have a baby, would he want that dirty equipment used for his family?” explains Niles. “That usually gets the point across, and the kits have become a tremendous success story overall.”