Friday, June 26, 2015

Measure it, Manage it

How well is the colostrum management program working? Hiding one's head in the sand and hoping for the best is one alternative. Or, actually monitoring passive transfer of immunity will give management numbers to use in making decisions. 

Let's look at a dairy that decided in 2013 to start collecting blood serum total protein data on all of their calves. They just made it a routine to bleed calves on a regular basis. 

These are the data summarized by calendar quarter:

Goals:                                      June15 Spring  Winter Fall’14 Spring  Winter Fall(’13)
None 4.5 or below                  0%         3%       3%       1%       1%          3%     9%
90% at 5.0 & above                97%       91%     91%     90%     97%       88%    77%
75% at 5.5 & above                79%       56%     59%     70%     62%       55%    45%

If we define passive transfer failure as a blood serum total protein (BSTP) value below 5.0 then they improved from 23% failures to only 3% failures.

After we summarized the data at the end of March 2015 we looked at the trend among calves testing 5.5 and above. Notice in the table above the percentage was on a downward trend from Fall 2014 to Spring 2015.

In late March 2015 we checked colostrum for bacteria content. We discovered a persistent problem with coliform contamination. Changes in sanitation practices as well as fresh cow teat preparation eliminated that problem - which might have been part of the issue with less than desirable antibody absorption. And, more attention was given to milking cows soon after calving, checking all the colostrum before feeding to be sure Brix readings were at 23% and higher, and feeding calves soon after birth. 

Now the percentage of calves testing at 5.5 BSTP and higher improved from 45% in Fall 2013 to 79% in June 2015.

If you are not measuring a key performance indicator then you probably are not doing a good job managing it!

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