12 June 1998

Profit from a daily update

Record keeping may be a

time-consuming chore, but

using those records can

improve dairy profits.

Jessica Buss reports

UPDATING stock records daily, keeping a tidy office, and involving all those working with cows, helps maximise the benefit of keeping records.

West Sussex vet Paul Crossman of Ian Hutchinson and partners, Arundel, believes records should be viewed in the same way as preventative medicine. They may seem to have little benefit, but the costs of not keeping them can be high.

Larger and expanding dairy herds seem most likely to suffer the effects of poor record keeping and use. Herd staff are under increased pressure and have little time to keep and use records, he warns.

Record keeping is worthless when information is not acted upon, and is inaccurate. But records can help improve cow welfare and productivity.

Mr Crossman prefers herds he visits to use herd health recording by the computerised dairy information service DAISY and to milk record. "Herds not using DAISY should use a circular fertility chart and keep returns in a wall chart form to monitor fertility so that herdsmen can anticipate when cows will next come bulling."

Visual aids are important, and the office is a crucial part of the dairy buildings. Record books should be updated daily, otherwise it becomes more difficult to keep track of what is going on, he advises.

Steve Alexander, of Lee Farm Partnerships, Lower Barpham, Patching, is one of Mr Crossmans clients. He uses DAISY records as a management tool for his 130 cows calving from July to April.

Mr Alexander uses DAISY action lists, together with a circular fertility chart and breeding wall charts, and milk records with NMR using its cell count service.

"DAISY records are updated from the record sheets fortnightly, or weekly when many cows are being served, so it provides more up-to-date fertility information than NMR," says Mr Alexander. Mr Crossman also produces a list of cows to present at his next visit, including those not bulling or due for a pregnancy diagnosis scan.

The circular calendar also shows bulling dates, calving dates and when repeats are due, says Mr Alexander. Services and bulling dates are also recorded on wall charts, which makes it easy to check whether a bulling cow should be on heat and if she is ready to serve.

DAISY lists also highlight problem cows which may need an injection to help them hold to service, adds Mr Alexander.

But a recording system should also be flexible and reactive, collecting additional information which may be useful, says Mr Crossman.

For example, to ensure body condition loss in fresh calvers is controlled closely, he now helps Mr Alexander condition score cows to monitor on DAISY. But this information is worthless unless diets are changed when necessary, adds Mr Crossman.

He hopes careful monitoring of fertility records and condition scoring will help achieve this years fertility target of a 50% conception rate to first service.

NMR is used for cell count and yield records and cell counts; the rolling average is 149,000/ml, and average yields are 8640 litres.

"Herd mastitis incidence is also low at 14%, with 1.3 cases in 18 cows in the herd; recommended target is 22% incidence," says Mr Crossman. But if cell counts or mastitis increase the NMR records will be valuable.

All farm staff who come into contact with cows must be aware of the records and know where to log bulling cows, especially the relief milker, he adds. Mr Alexanders relief milker is given daily instruction sheets, and action lists. He also understands and updates the herd records and breeding charts.

Monitoring trends in fertility, herd health, cell counts and mastitis, and giving culling recommendations, is easy with DAISY recording because graphs and lists can be printed. It is more difficult to monitor data which is not computerised, adds Mr Crossman.

He also produces an annual report for a discussion on health and fertility with the farm manager and Mr Alexander. "DAISY records improve the service we can give as vets," he says.

Vet Paul Crossman (left) encourages Steve Alexander to update records daily to keep track of what is going on.