Health records should support cow-level health management, herd-level health process management and residue avoidance. The health records on many dairies aren’t “good” and I have the references to prove it! They document a lack of accuracy and consistency needed for efficient summary and analysis. Yet, in the nearly 17 years I have been paying attention, the dairy industry seems to be largely unimpressed and there has been little change. In fact, a survey of Washington and Idaho dairy farmers found that only 17 percent of 160 respondents were dissatisfied with the quality and utility of their computerized health records. However, only 11 percent of 38 Washington and Idaho dairy veterinarians were satisfied with the quality of their client’s health records. Perhaps it has something to do with perspective.
In 1995, Etherington et al. drew attention to the fact that producers generally utilize individual animal data, whereas practitioners and other consultants are more concerned with herd summary information. Since health records are user-defined (i.e., no industry or software standard) and the primary users are dairy personnel, focused on day-today activities involving individual cows, it makes sense they think dairy health records are good even if veterinarians don’t. If we want health data that can be summarized to objectively evaluate the efficacy of health management on client dairies then we need to take a more active role in how health records are kept.
Health records are “good” if they support three critical functions that address the needs of all users:
- Cow-level health management
- Herd-level health process management
- Residue avoidance/regulatory compliance (see sidebar).
In a previous article, I referred to “The 3 Simple Rules of Good Recording” (July 2013) as a guide to implement standard health data-entry protocols on dairies to achieve good health records. This article provides examples of the application of those rules to address health data-management situations that can negatively impact record quality.
Record all disease episodes identified
Regardless of severity, duration or treatment given, all identified disease episodes should be recorded. For the most accurate estimate of disease incidence (prevention efficacy), standard disease case definitions need to be adopted. In 1998, Kelton et al. proposed recommended standards for recording and calculating common clinical diseases of dairy cattle, yet little progress seems to have been made. Recording of metritis and mastitis is particularly challenging, primarily because case definition often includes treatment-decision considerations.