16 Feb

Protocols

Running a certified organic raw milk dairy, we have numerous protocols. There are numerous definitions for that word: protocols. In medicine, it can mean a procedure for carrying out a scientific experiment or a course of medical treatment. In politics, it can mean the official procedure or system of rules governing affairs of state or diplomatic occasions.

I like the word, but another appropriate word is practices.

We have three main types of cows on a dairy farm: lactating, dry, and heifer. The lactating cows are the ones making the money. The dry cows are the ones on vacation – having finished one lactation, and now finishing a calf before they start another lactation. Finally, there are the heifers – the really young ones to the breeding age to the pregnant ones.

Each of the three types has different physical needs, specifically in regards to feed and mineral supplement. For example, a dry cow needs less calcium intake, but much more vitamin E and other vitamins to prepare for “freshening” (having a calf).

How do we know when a lactating cow is supposed to go on vacation? We know based on breeding date. We have a protocol for how we breed, how we verify pregnancy, and how we calculate dry off date.

Recently, because a cow showed not one, but two strong “heats” after a breeding, I did not bother to preg check right away and went ahead and bred said cow again. I then marked her breeding date as the later date, not the earlier. The marked date as opposed to the actual date were more than 30 days apart. As a result, said cow was coming up on dry off but suddenly showing udder growth. We immediately stopped milking. and she calved a short two weeks later.

Ouch. I totally botched the management on that one. She had the wrong diet heading to calving because she was still lactating. Also, her udder did not rest long enough.

As a result, of blowing the management side, I am changing several protocols:

  1. I am visiting a 10,000 cow dairy multiple times over the next several months to work on “arming” cows to get better at my AI and placement. By doing this, I also hope to get better at assessing true heat and possible pregnancy cow-side.
  2. I am running blood test preg check on any cow who shows a heat that I find suspicious. This way, while I might end up breeding the “heat”, I also will have quick feedback as to whether she has pregnancy specific protein b (PSPB) and is in fact pregnant. This will help me avoid recording wrong breeding date, and overcomes my failed attempt to detect pregnancy by palpation. Our prior protocol on pregnancy mostly involved 3 missed heats, but with the herd growing, a cow can show heat and not be in heat if her mates are in heat. Cows are like any group housing of girls – they tend to bunch up on their cycles.
  3. I am changing our mineral supplementation program to make sure I specifically address the needs of the three cow groups to avoid health issues. The goal on this is to minimize edema and retained placentas, two issues we have seen that I feel are higher percentage than I would like to have in the herd (zero percent would be great, albeit is not realistic).
  4. We are going to start giving nosodes to our cows and calves to prep their immune systems for any number of viral disorders. The nosode we will specifically add to our program is called “10 way”. Essentially, they are sugar pills that go into the water that cows drink that have been exposed to the “frequency” of the 10 way vaccine. Cows will get the nosode twice a year.

There are so many other protocols and practices we have that we have developed over time that may be subject to change if I look at stats and numbers and realize they are not totally working. In the meantime, we carry on and take detailed notes on outcome to see what change we can effect!

Heifers
Heifers of different ages

I leave you with this image of heifers on this fine winter block. In the front, we have 10 or 11 week old Danica, on her left is 3 week old Luci, and behind them is nearly 1 year old Anaya.

We are back on Facebook by the way – since it does serve as a good platform for putting out quick snippets of information relative to our activities and what is happening in the market. For example, with yesterday’s snow and very slick roads, the south delivery was postponed until today. Useful information to have, but this is not worthy of a blog post.

We encourage you to “Like” our facebook page. There is a link below or in the sidebar, or you can click here to visit the page: https://facebook.com/GuernseyGoodness

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