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Dairy Today Healthline

Remove the Dust from Old Protocols

Feb 27, 2014

Make establishing an effective herd-health protocol more interesting to employees with these tips.

Jorge Delgado   AlltechBy Jorge Delgado, Alltech On-Farm Support Manager

When I visit dairies to review some of their protocols for managing herd health, I find that most of them are not translated correctly. Some protocols are simply a piece of paper hanging on the wall, while others appear not updated or too complicated.

When was the last time you reviewed your existing protocols with your veterinarian and employees and made sure everyone was on the same page? The most important part of a good protocol plan is to include employees in the decisions of what goes into making these protocols and then explain to them the WHY of these best practice tips. For example, employees need to know why the dairy uses chosen medications, when the most important withdrawal times are and what the symptoms of sickness are and the economical effects of these on the operation.

Here are some tips for establishing an effective protocol:

1. Ask your veterinarian to create a protocol for your dairy.

2. Translate the procedures listed in the protocol for Spanish speakers.

3. Illustrate the protocol through a presentation to the employees.

4. Use pictures for every topic in the protocol (i.e. a cow with pneumonia for pneumonia treatments, etc). Pictures will make the protocol easier to follow and relate to for employees.

5. Include a description of the common symptoms for every disease identified in your protocol.

6. Take a picture of all medications (vaccines, bottles, mastitis tubes, pills, etc.) and make a copy of the labels including these with the descriptions above.

7. Make sure there is a note of the site of injection for every treatment or event.

8. When taking the photographs, have one of your employees model the task (e.g.: mixing a vaccine, injecting a cow, etc.) so they feel they are part of the process.

9. Share the costs of treatments so employees can understand how much the medicine and the treatment cost per cow/calf. During meetings, discuss budgets for medicine, using efficacy and inventory.

10. Laminate the protocols so everyone can review them or refer to them when they are working with animals.

11. Review your protocols with your employees and your veterinarian every six months.

Alltech photo 1aAt left is an example of one of the pages of a protocol for fresh cows. It is translated and has a picture of a cow with a retained placenta as well as pictures of the medicine selected to treat this event.

Also for practices like tagging, mixing vaccinations, dipping navals, etc., you can add pictures to your protocols to make sure the way it is done is the correct way followed by the right training.

Below are some examples of a calf ranch protocol including some of the practices they follow with pictures and correct steps of the process for feeding a calf as well as mixing a vaccine:

Alltech photo 2

Alltech photo 3









All you need to make a protocol more interesting to your employees is a camera and a computer. Once you are done, you can print them, laminate them, put them in a folder or even make a poster.  

Jorge Delgado is a third-generation dairy farmer from Ecuador. He is in integral part of Alltech’s on-farm support team. Delgado provides assistance in improving labor management, milk quality and trains Spanish-speaking workers on dairy farms in areas such as calving, milking, fresh cow management, and herd health. Contact Delgado at or 605-692-5310.
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