Over the years, there have been many systems proposed and implemented to monitor and identify fresh cows that need treatment. Some of these have been very labor intensive and others have looked at just one single item, such as temperature; however, as I have trained farm staff on fresh cow evaluation and treatment, I have discovered a few tips to help make this process efficient and effective.
1. Easily identifying high risk cows – This can be done in multiple ways, but one easy way is to write the date the cow calved on her hip, and then circle that date if you had to pull the calf, if she had twins, is lame or has any other reason to need extra attention. Having it written right on the cow allows for easy identification. Walking through the pen, you can easily identify those cows that might need a second look, and you can make sure that they are off to a good start.
2. Milk production – Via computer or visual, you can make sure that fresh cows are coming up on milk. I like to have the people working the fresh pen in the parlor when the fresh cows are milked. If a cow is not coming in with a full udder, I recommend marking the back of her leg with chalk. When you are working that pen of cows, you can give a little more attention to the cows with a mark on their hock and determine why they are not milking as well.
3. Attitude & Appetite of the Cow – It is very efficient when fresh cows eat fresh feed in headlocks after milking. If they eat and get locked up, you know that they are hungry and feeling good. That means that the cows that do not lock-up might potentially need some extra attention. In addition to appetite, look at the heads of those cows – either in the headlock or walking through the pen – to find cows with droopy ears or signs of illness.
4. Uterus Health – Any high risk cows should get palpated at days 5 and 10, checking uterus status. I suggest all cows are palpated at day 10 to make sure that the uterus is normal.
I do not recommend that you temp all of the cows, but definitely cows that are high risk or not milking very well. On any suspect animals, take their temperatures, as well as checking their manure consistency and uterus status. That will usually guide you in the right direction on a treatment program for the animal.
It is important that fresh cows are not locked up for more than 1 hour a day. You want to make sure that when you go out and evaluate those cows, any medications and equipment that you need is with you, so that the evaluation and treatment process very timely and efficient.
Like all disease processes, prevention is always much more cost effective than treatment. Our best fresh cow program starts pre-fresh with proper stocking density, bedding conditions, bunk space, and feed management.
If you have any questions about your current fresh cow program or want to do any additional employee training in this area, please let us know. Let’s work together to find those lost cows and get them on track to a great milking career.