Several years ago, another dairy extension specialist and I were conducting a DHI herdbook clinic for a dairy farmer in the state. During the records analysis, we noticed that somatic cell scores (SCS) at the beginning of the 12-month testing year were very desirable and that the herd was likely receiving milk quality premiums. However, midway through the year, SCS increased drastically and remained high for the rest of the year. This observation led to an interesting discussion with the farmer. We pointed out the issue as a concern and began asking questions to pinpoint the source of the problem. The first question was, “What changed or happened six months ago that might have impacted the SCS?”. The farmer considered the question and couldn’t immediately think of anything significant. After a few moments, his eyes lit up and he recalled that he hired ‘Bob’ as a milker six months ago. After identifying the probable source of the problem, possible solutions were discussed that included retraining or reassigning the employee in question.
In this simple situation, the question of “what changed?” might have been answered a little quicker and with more confidence if the farmer had been maintaining a dairy management diary. A dairy management diary is a structured way of keeping track of changes made in the operation. One can then use the information to evaluate success/failure of changes, monitor progress toward reaching goals, and to aid in troubleshooting herd problems.
A dairy management diary can be as simple or as detailed as desired. For example, one could use a journal style notebook. Alternatively, handwritten notations in the remarks box on a DHI-202 Herd Summary report could also be an effective way to maintain a history (see example 1).
Both of these options are simple, but are not easily searchable. This is where a spreadsheet may come in handy. A great advantage of having data in a spreadsheet is the ability to search, sort, and/or filter information quickly (see example 2).
Types of information recorded in any kind of dairy management diary will vary from farm to farm. As one develops a personalized dairy management diary, it would be helpful to ask those who frequently consult with the dairy (extension agents/specialists, veterinarians, nutritionists, consultants, and/or bankers) to make suggestions on the information that would be most impactful for the dairy.
Winter is a great time to evaluate dairy management, recordkeeping practices, and information needs. In conclusion, a dairy management diary may be a simple, yet effective way to enhance information that is available for herd management.
Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, reprint, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.
Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.
December 22, 2016