Train Employees for Better Protocol Compliance

Published on: 17:42PM May 17, 2013

How to help them avoid doing more harm than good to your dairy herd.

Wallace RichardBy Richard Wallace, DVM, MS
Dairy Cattle and Equine Technical Services, Zoetis

On a visit to a dairy, I met with the owner and three employees in charge of administering treatments to fresh cows to see how things were going. The dairy had written protocols, but periodically it’s a good idea to check in and see if any protocol drift had occurred. During our conversation, we discovered that each employee was treating the cattle differently from the agreed-upon protocol.

Unfortunately, this situation is common. Dairies are a place of perpetual motion. It can be difficult to find time for meetings to make sure everyone is staying on the same page with treatment protocols. To avoid this problem, you need to stress protocol compliance during employee training and explain why it’s important.

Why compliance matters and what it means

Before you can teach protocol compliance, you need the term to matter and to mean something. Complying with treatment protocols helps protect dairy wellness by:

• Ensuring a full course of therapy, which offers the best chance of recovery
• Decreasing the chance of additional expenses from treatment failure
• Avoiding violative drug residues

Those are important goals to the dairy. The key aspects of protocol compliance are:

• Working with your veterinarian
• Using the correct treatment
• Giving the correct dosage amount
• Using the correct route of administration
• Treating at the correct time and for the correct duration
• Keeping accurate records

How to put compliance into action

When training your employees to comply with treatments, just telling them to follow protocols might not be effective. Your employees want healthy cows. If they think the cow is not responding to a protocol, they might alter the treatment to something they think will work, without realizing they could do more harm than good.

When training employees, explain why the action is important before explaining how to do it. Let’s use the example of training your employees to be compliant with protocols.

• Why: Following written treatment protocols ensures dairy wellness by keeping animals healthy, helping the dairy be successful and producing quality food.
• How: Give effective treatments by following written protocols and/or following veterinarians’ directions.

Helping your employees understand why compliance is important will help them remember how to be compliant.

Help available to make compliance a priority

Your veterinarian should be your partner in explaining protocols and ensuring compliance. Developing a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) should be your first step toward compliance. With a valid VCPR, your veterinarian can help you:
• Write and review treatment protocols for your employees to follow
• Develop accurate record-keeping practices
• Follow up with your employees to check for compliance
Zoetis is here to help you, too. We’ve developed a poster that you can use to keep protocol compliance top of mind with your employees. Visit for a "Six tips for proper drug treatments" poster and other materials to help your dairy stay compliant and avoid drug residues.