Do you really know…
- How many of your milk fever cows actually get pregnant?
- If you get more still births in the natural calving period or during AB?
- Whether the AI bull you used for your heifers resulted in more assisted calvings than the previous year?
- Whether you get more calves born dead from those beef bulls that you used last year for natural mating?
- If those extra few beef calf dollars are worth it?
Do you have the information to answer these questions on your farm?
Good quality data is powerful. Recording cow health conditions at calving is useful for many reasons; you just need to get into the habit of collecting it. Use your phone, a yellow notebook (have a copy on the bike and a spare somewhere in case one falls in the trough), use a white board at the cowshed, use the Minda App or your Dairy Diary – it doesn’t matter where you record the data, just record it somewhere permanent! Later, when calving has finished, you can enter them into your other herd recording software where we can help you understand what the data is actually saying.
The immediate benefit of recording means that you can detect a problem early and intervene to prevent or manage ongoing issues. We’ve already had a couple of farms this season with a high percentage of assisted calvings due to a specific beef bull, and only due to close recording has this being identified. The farmers can now be extra vigilant with the rest of the cows due to calve to those bulls.
Another example where early detection makes a big difference is if a herd is experiencing too many retained afterbirths. The trigger level is met if in the first 100 cows calved, there are 2 or more (≥2%) cows with a retained afterbirth more than 24 hours after calving. If you have more than this occur in the first 100 cows calved (across all cows, not just the cows treated with antibiotics), we can take some blood samples and may determine the cause of the problem. Correcting the issue, e.g., increasing selenium supplementation if low levels are found in the blood samples, may be a simple fix that can lead to an almost immediate resolution of the problem. But if you only recorded the very sick cows with retained afterbirths, you may never have realised that you had so many. It could be that it was not until after calving had finished that you found that you had treated a more cows than usual.
It is important that you encourage all your staff to record everything; you could even create incentives for the most interesting thing recorded! We have never seen a farmer record too much information! Recording everything including those wobbly milk fever cows that just get a CalPro bolus as they leave the shed, can make a difference to interpretation of the data.
At your pre-mating meeting with your vet please ensure you share these animal health records with them. This is the time we can make plans with you to be proactive with early intervention (e.g., metrichecking) or changes in management (e.g., milking frequency) if we know about any issues that may have cropped up during calving and early lactation.