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The only way to improve performance on your dairy is to measure it over time. Here are five key areas to remember when setting up a monitoring system:
Goals. The target level and desired level of variation must be established before you can make meaningful conclusions about your progress.
Daily data. Ideally, your analysis will be based on frequently collected data. This requires you to determine which daily results are most likely to predict future results. Chart 1 is an example of tracking the daily number of cows in the fresh pen. If the goal is an 80% stocking rate, the maximum level of cows in the pen should not exceed 104 cows in this example. This chart provides the herd manager with timely feedback on the timing of cow movements and compliance to protocols.
Analyze and review weekly. A minimum of 20 data points is usually required to establish a baseline for statistical process control charting. However, trends in level and variation can be spotted quickly, especially if the variation is low.
Compare the variability of somatic cell count (SCC) levels in charts 2 and 3. The overall average SCC is 372,000 cells/ml and 375,000 cells/ml in the two herds. However, it appears that Herd A does not have a consistent set of preventive procedures to control SCC. The variation can be measured by dividing the size of one standard deviation by the average, or nearly 12% in herd A and less than 6% in herd B. Not only is herd B less variable, it was also consistently following a set of protocols until something increased variation in the first part of July. It appears that the problem was identified by the end of July and the variation is now decreasing. In most cases, this will lead to a decrease in the overall herd SCC in future weeks.
Target and interference levels. Work with your herd consultants to develop levels to determine when you should reconsider whether the proper protocols and procedures are being implemented.
Rewards and consequences. Timely data analysis allows for faster detection of good behaviors, as well as more reliable detection of behavior that is not consistent with your goals. Employees appreciate weekly updates on trends that are a result of their performance. Your management style will determine how you will handle these situations. However, the first step is to be aware of the changes in performance on a timely basis.