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July 2012 Archive for Dairy Today Healthline

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Dairy Today Healthline

Taking Your Employees to the Next Level

Jul 30, 2012

Here’s a plan to help one dairy boost its employee performance. Would it work for your operation?

thayerBy Travis Thayer, Diamond V

The primary focus of my role as a Dairy Technical Trainer with Diamond V has been to support Diamond V customers by providing training in Spanish to non-English-speaking Hispanic dairy workers on various protocol driven tasks on the dairy, such as feeding cows and calves, milking procedure, maternity pen and cow management, etc.

Often when I go on to farms, some training has already been provided, and my function is to reinforce protocols that the dairy manager, nutritionist or veterinarian has put into place. The point is, we have lots of tools to train employees in these “tangible” skills, but often what I see dairies struggle with are the “intangible” things, like attitude, motivation, a spirit of teamwork and a desire to constantly improve. How do you get employees to pick up on those types of ideas?

Recently I was on a farm working with an employee, a relief feeder, to review feeding protocols on the dairy. Overall he was doing a good job, but there were a few things the manager wanted him to adjust that would help the dairy a lot. His attitude was cordial and positive, and he seemed to be receptive to my suggestions.

After he left, the herd manager, who had been watching our discussion, shared his thoughts with me. “He is a valuable employee. He has been here quite a few years, so I trust him. He can do a number of tasks on the farm, and gets the job done when I ask him to, but he never looks beyond what I ask him to do or takes initiative to handle jobs that need to get done. The problem is, I know he has the skills to take on more responsibility than he does, but he is just not motivated to step up. I don’t know what I need to do to get him to the next level.”

We discussed overall pay structure of the dairy. The owner values the employees and really tries to make sure they are well taken care of. Raises are “automatic,” with no formal employee performance review process in place. In addition to regular raises, the dairy also gives employees meat from cull cows and a Christmas bonus. The manager commented that employees seem to expect the raise, and that many complained profusely and threatened to quit a couple of years ago when dairy economics did not allow for a raise. I told him that I understand that they want to take good care of their employees, but I wondered whether the employees truly understood this and truly valued the excellent work environment that the dairy provides.

I also asked if employee meetings are held regularly to reinforce the dairy and business culture and touch base with employees. None are being held at present. The manager speaks fluent Spanish and regularly talks to most employees, so they at least have a line of communication. He and the owner had talked about this type of meeting in the past but just never gotten around to it. I also asked how often the owner (who is hands-on in the daily management of the dairy) interacts with employees. The manager said the owner is very friendly and cordial with the employees, and greets them by name when he sees them, but that there is no formal mechanism by which he communicates expectations and gives feedback to employees.

I suggested two ideas:

1) Don’t make raises automatically. Instead, institute a formal employee evaluation process every six to 12 months, and if the employee is not performing to the level that the dairy expects, a full raise is not given. This process would involve clear communication to the employee on what to do to improve for the next review to get a full raise. If the employee is doing a great job, this also gives the manager a chance to recognize the employee for good performance and reward him or her with the full amount of the raise. This gives a message to employees that the dairy expects people to do their best and work to improve, and that they are paying attention to how people are doing their jobs.

2) Hold regular (annual or semi-annual) meetings with employees to “brand” the dairy’s culture, and clearly communicate expectations of employee performance, teamwork and excellence on the farm. Obviously, the dairy has to keep running, so this may have to be done in shifts. I suggested that the owner be heavily involved with the meeting, preferably running it, so that he can directly communicate his message to the employees. I had taken part in such a meeting recently, and it was very powerful to see how much it meant to the employees to interact directly with the owner.

The manager and I are going to speak with the owner and talk about implementing this plan. I hope they do, as they have a very well-run dairy, with great employees, and I think this will help them improve even more.

After obtaining a B.S. in Microbiology and a DVM Degree at UC Davis, Dr. Thayer practiced dairy production medicine in California’s Central Valley. He joined Diamond V in 2011 as Dairy Technical Trainer. Contact him at 510-910-3126 or tthayer@diamondv.com.

Reduce Calf Pneumonia with Smart Summer Vaccination Strategies

Jul 02, 2012

Choose respiratory protection wisely; avoid overstressing calves during hot weather.

From Novartis Animal Health

IMG 0654   CopyPreventing disease caused by bacterial pathogens associated with Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) should be on every herd health calendar for dairy cattle of all types and sizes. BRD complex associated with Mannheimia (Pasteurella) haemolytica is known for its severity and rapid onset in dairy calves, particularly after they experience stress.

Prevention of respiratory disease is economically important, especially in developing dairy heifers. A study of Holstein dairy farms revealed that young calves that developed respiratory disease are two-and-one-half times more likely to die prior to delivering their first calves, as compared to calves that remained healthy.1

Vaccines are a great tool to help combat any number of cattle diseases, including BRD. However, to get the most protection vaccines can offer producers need to keep a few things in mind—especially as temperatures heat up.

Davidson, John
Dr. Dave Johnson, Novartis Animal Health

Dr. John M. Davidson, professional services veterinarian with Novartis Animal Health, advises producers to be mindful of weather conditions when vaccinating calves in the heat of summer.

“Heat stress can trigger a variety of health issues for cattle,” notes Davidson. “One of the challenges of heat stress is that it limits an animal’s ability to build an immune response. So, administering vaccines in high heat or excessively humid conditions should be avoided whenever possible. It’s always better to vaccinate cattle early in the day when ambient temperatures are cooler.”

Davidson also reminds producers to monitor the number of gram-negative vaccines they are administering to cattle at the same time. “This is especially important during hot weather,” he says. “There are a quite a few gram-negative bacterial diseases we protect against with vaccines, including M. haemolytica, formerly known as Pasteurella haemolytica.”

The challenge is that the majority of vaccines licensed for protection against respiratory disease bacteria contain whole cells of the target bacteria, like M. haemolytica for instance. The cell walls of these bacteria contain lipopolysaccharide, or LPS, also known as endotoxin. And the LPS endotoxin has a negative impact on an animal’s overall system—specifically its immune system.

“The effect of LPS is cumulative,” explains Davidson. “That’s why there are recommended limits on the number of gram-negative bacterial vaccines administered to cattle. This is especially important for calves. Producers should always consult with their veterinarian for guidelines on calfhood vaccinations against respiratory disease because every operation has a unique set of circumstances or risk factors.”

Temperature Effects

Heat stress can lower an animal’s natural barriers to bacteria2, increasing the potential for LPS levels to rise and adding to the cumulative effect.

“That’s why it’s even more important not to overload cattle with gram-negative vaccines in the heat of summer,” cautions Davidson. “Unfortunately, we are not able to predict which animals are more sensitive to the effects of heat stress and LPS endotoxin. However, we do know that certain weather conditions and vaccines containing whole cells of target bacteria can increase the likelihood of an unfavorable response.”

Fortunately, newer vaccine manufacturing processes enable us to minimize the inclusion of the endotoxin or LPS-containing portions of the bacterial cell wall. Novartis Animal Health recently introduced the first new M. haemolytica vaccine to enter the U.S. marketplace in over 10 years. http://www.nuplura.com/ It’s unique because it is not a traditional “whole-cell” vaccine. The vaccine’s principle components are outer protein membranes (OMPs) that have been extracted and purified.

These OMPs are joined by a recombinant leukotoxoid and an adjuvant. This production process reduces the amount of the whole-cell wall present in the vaccine and, therefore, lowers the potential for a reaction to LPS endotoxin.

“To get the maximum response from vaccines, it’s important that we don’t overwhelm the animal’s immune system,” Davidson says. “In the summertime, this means avoiding vaccinating cattle if the temperature is above 85 degrees F with humidity above 40%, or at higher temperatures with lower humidity.”3

Management Considerations

To maximize the effectiveness of your vaccination program:
• Always consult with your veterinarian regarding vaccination protocols as part of your herd’s total health program.
• Properly store products.
• Vaccinate healthy animals.
• Administer vaccines using good hygiene and according to label directions.
• Understand there’s a higher potential for adverse reactions in hot weather and high humidity. Keep proper treatments on hand, like epinephrine, to quickly address any adverse animal reaction.
• Use these heat stress guidelines and the accompanying temperature-humidity index chart from the Kansas Department of Agriculture to reduce the effects of heat stress.

Keep in mind that making good vaccine choices is only one part of preventing costly diseases in cattle. Good nutrition is the cornerstone of animal health management and along, with mineral supplementation, is essential for vaccine efficacy.


1. Waltner-Toews D, Martin SW, Meek AH. The effect of early calfhood health status on survivorship and age at first calving. Can J Vet Res 1986;50:314-317.
2. Lambert GP. Stress-induced gastrointestinal barrier dysfunction and its inflammatory effects. J of Animal Sci.2009; 87:E101-E108.
3. Bagley C. Vaccination Program for Beef Calves. Available at: http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/factsheet/ah_beef__40.pdf. Accessed June 11, 2012.
 

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