Most progressive dairies have the big things covered. As we strive to manage the dairy operation in a systematic way, it is often the little but important things that get overlooked. There may be SOPs (standard operating procedures) in place for the obvious tasks of milking, feeding, treating sick animals and running the synchronization program, but do you have SOPs for those “little” things that are often overlooked?
When was the last time you checked or calibrated the scales on your mixer wagon? I find this to be one area that can cost the dairy thousands of dollars in lost feed and/or lost milk production. It is obviously a simple task to complete, but it rarely gets done on a routine basis unless there is reason to think that something is wrong. You can easily use some 50-pound bags of feed additives or the weight of a human (not while the mixer is running, of course). Check the weights with varying amounts of forage or other ingredients in the mixer as there can be variation at different weights. Have a checklist so we are sure this is getting checked on a routine basis, not only twice each year.
If you are feeding pasteurized waste milk, are you monitoring the time and temperature and following up with some routine post-pasteurization bacterial counts. Maybe this is already part of your SOP. If not, then don’t wait to check these areas only when there are perceived issues with sick calves. Get it on a checklist.
Are you performing on-farm milk culturing? If so, is there any quality control for making sure we are correctly identifying the mastitis pathogens. Is the incubator set at the correct temperature? Are we certain that “no-growth” samples are truly uninfected cattle? These are all important questions to ask so that we can ensure accurate results.
Have you recently checked the temperature of the semen thaw water bath? Is this water changed and is the unit cleaned on a routine basis? Is this procedure on the checklist? Incorrect thaw temperatures and bacterial growth in the water bath can have significant negative effects on conception rate. We are often found trouble-shooting the obvious areas where we can have breakdown of procedure, but often miss these “little” things.
While we are talking temperature, what is the temperature of the refrigerator where you store vaccines and other pharmaceuticals? What about the temperature of the coldstored colostrum? Vaccine can be subject to damage at too low (freezing) or too high of a temperature. Coliforms can double in colostrum every 20 minutes if the cooling does not take place quickly. Keep a thermometer in the refrigerator and monitor the temperature.