If you still manage your herd"s dairy records by hand, be aware that computers can make your job easier. Dairy software programs used in herds can save you time by generating different daily activity lists and reports easily and quickly. These reports can be used for many management tasks, including bST treatments, GnRH and PGF shots for Ovsynch cows, pregnancy checklists or hoof trimmings.
Dairy producers must consider the transition to computer software programs as a great investment rather than a painful upgrade. Unfortunately, many producers (even in some large herds) are still spending long hours manually tracking cows and treatments in their herds on a piece of paper. Many times the handwritten notes are hard to read, particularly after a rainy day or after an undesirable coffee spill. That is why farmers must consider using computer programs for record keeping. In contrast, many progressive dairies in the U.S. and around the world now use a computer-based system to record all events and track cows undergoing synchronization programs and many other activities on the dairy. Transitioning to a computer-based record system is not always easy. It takes some time to learn new processes, including data security, frequent data backup, producing correct reports, feeding data into computer, and most importantly, correctly interpreting all of the summaries and graphs produced by the different computer packages. However, once a program is up and running, it will produce accurate reports with space to write comments when necessary.
When selecting a herd management software program, remember: the best computer package is the one you know how to use! Choose one that is easy to understand and will supply you with the records and summaries that you routinely use in your dairy. It"s important that you know how to retrieve any piece of information that will be useful for you and your consultant to make decisions about your management.
Here are some questions to consider when selecting a software package to manage your synchronization program:
Is your software program helping you track reproductive program shots accurately?
It"s important to use a program that fits the specifi c needs for your dairy. Also, make sure that you are able to use the software correctly and to tailor the program"s features to work with your management strategies. If the program doesn"t help you in your daily managment routine, then it is not being used effectively.
With a properly set-up software program, you can save time and effort by eliminating unnecessary steps. Your software program, when running correctly, can help you ensure that the correct cows appear on the right lists, order your lists by pen and cow number and give you extra space to write any notes in the report.
Are you able to check key reproductive parameters easily with your farm software?
If a dairy is manually tracking its reproduction program, it has to rely heavily on pregnancy check results. However, a good software program can supply a dairy operation with much more information throughout the month.
If you have a reproductive problem in your herd and you only rely on the results from pregnancy checks as your main information, you don"t know if the problem stems from a low heat detection rate or low conception rate.
With computerized records, you can track actual conception results and current service rates to better define problems and set up specific action plans with your consultants – all with the click of a few buttons!
As a side note, make sure you are able to break conception rate results apart and look at conception rate by lactation number, technician, breeding codes or triggers, pen number, times bred, milk production level or any other criteria you choose. This way, you will be able to pin point fertility issues more precisely.
Figure 1. An example of a confusing, hand-written list of cows to receive Pre-Synch/Ovsynch shots. A herd management computer program would sort out cows that don"t need to be on this list and order cows by pen and ID number.
Can you easily share a backup data file with your consultant?
This is a major issue. Many herds want their consultants to closely monitor their reproductive and herd health parameters. Consultants can easily obtain this information by getting a backup of each dairy"s computer records.
Also, some software programs have great options for built-in, predefi ned reports and benchmarks as well as great support on their website, which can be used to compare your dairy to other dairies of a similar size and region.
Figure 2. Example of a clear report of cows to be examined, ordered by pen and ID number. Notice that the ID number is repeated at beginning and at the end of each line to avoid mistakes when writing comments for a particular cow.
Do you have quick access to reliable customer support?
This is a very important detail when selecting a computer program. Surprisingly, many dairies have incorrect settings within their management programs, causing numerous, timewasting problems. Having reliable customer support to correct these issues will make your daily activities much easier. Make sure you have good support.
Are you stuck with a synchronization program because you can"t change your computer"s settings?
I hope not. Computer programs should allow you to change to another synchronization program whenever you desire. If you need help changing the settings, rely on your customer support resources.
One of the biggest frustrations for any consultant in the dairy business is not been able to pull accurate reproductive data to support logical decision making. A properly managed computerized record system can help everyone involved with the dairy.
One of the best ways to save money in this harsh economic environment is to find ways to be more efficient, like integrating a computer package that allows good data keeping and accurate reports, followed by frequent analysis of key parameters by the managerial team. By following these recommendations, dairy producers can more effectively manage their reproductive programs on their operation.
Source: Dr. Alex Souza, Ph.D., Reproductive Specialist, Accelerated Genetics