May 13 2024 04:33 PM

    Dive deeper into data to uncover solutions for your clients.

    The information below has been supplied by dairy marketers and other industry organizations. It has not been edited, verified or endorsed by Hoard’s Dairyman.

    It is no secret that a dairy farm’s data is valuable for profitable decision-making and performance. As a dairy consultant, having the ability to directly interact with a farm’s data puts you in a stronger position to deliver more value to your clients.

    “Thirty years ago, I heard Steve Eicher, DairyComp co-founder, explain that whoever has access to the data and knows what to do with it holds the keys,” says Dr. Jack Hansen, a veterinarian at Valley Veterinary Clinic in Seymour, Wisconsin. “That’s been true for me in my career. That’s how you become more valuable to the dairy – it elevates your position to help solve their problems.”

    Hansen, who has been a large animal veterinarian for 45 years, credits his success to his ability to interact with his clients' data. He learned the basics of the DairyComp herd management system early in his career while working with herds of about 200 cows. He’s continued exploring and working with even more data points as his clients' herds grew – most today are 20 times the size.

    Here’s how Hansen recommends using a herd management solution to deliver more value to your farms.

    Start small

    Every day, a significant amount of data is recorded on a dairy. While analyzing and applying the data can seem like a daunting task, Hansen suggests starting small.

    “Start with a work list – whether that’s a list of cows to check for pregnancy, fresh check or dry-off,” says Hansen. “Review the list and ask yourself, ‘Does this list make sense? Is there anything else that should be included?’”

    While it sounds rudimentary, ensuring the list you’re using includes all the information you need to make a decision on individual animals can greatly improve your efficiency. From there, you can customize the list and reports to make them work for your needs.

    Find a better way

    Always be looking for a better way to do things.

    “Always be thinking about: How can we do this differently? Is there something else we should be doing? Is there something we’re doing that we shouldn’t be doing anymore?” says Hansen.

    Revisiting workflows for routine tasks is a great place to find new efficiencies. Perhaps your client doesn’t use an RFID reader but has RFID tags and facilities to safely secure animals, such as headlocks, palpation rails or parlor stalls. Pairing mobile herd management with an RFID reader can make your vet checks and worklists easier, faster and more accurate.

    Think about the tasks your clients perform repetitively. Is there a way to combine them for more efficiency? Often, this means tackling various tasks in one pass through a pen – such as herd health protocols, move day, dry-off, hoof trimming and vaccinations.

    “The part I love about DairyComp is that you can customize it to do anything that you want – it’s so flexible,” says Hansen. “I like looking at the software from a user standpoint to figure out how I can customize it to meet my client’s needs.”

    Dig into the data

    Data helps you identify problems and opportunities and then supports the recommendations you make to your clients. It can also foster collaboration with other consultants the farm works with since there’s often crossover in all areas of expertise.

    “I was working with a farm’s nutritionist who was not happy with the milking performance of the two-year-olds,” says Hansen. “By digging into the farm’s herd data, we were able to review age at first calving to show that the more mature heifers perform better in later lactation. The farm needs to see the data to back that up because they’re investing about $100 per month to grow that heifer longer.”

    Often, it’s the little things Hansen finds himself investigating with the data.

    “On one farm, we were chasing calf pneumonia, trying different treatments and not getting great results,” he shares. “By digging into the data, we were able to review different age groups of calves to pinpoint where the issue began. We found it went all the way back to the maternity pen and required retraining the staff on how to tube colostrum to calves, as they were dribbling some milk down the trachea, causing aspiration pneumonia.”

    If this farm hadn’t been using herd management software to record who’s feeding calves, what age they got pneumonia and ultrasound lung scores, it likely would have taken much longer to find the root cause, if at all.

    By using data to research an issue a client is having, you can pinpoint where the issue stems from and offer solutions to address the problem.

    Be timely with a solution

    Maybe you find that there’s a problem with a farm’s reproduction program, a milk quality issue or even a protocol to adjust. Take the time to thoroughly investigate the problem and think through the best solution.

    “Farmers have problems every day that they need to solve – something broke in the parlor, a tractor needs repair, an employee issue needs addressing,” says Hansen. “Don’t bring them more problems. Investigate the problem and be ready to bring them a solution.”

    Remember to be sensitive to the timing of when you bring the solutions to them as well.

    “Timing is everything. The day they’re out planting corn probably isn’t the day to bring it up,” says Hansen.

    Just as you continually reevaluate how you run your business, the same holds true for herd management software. Keep asking questions. Dig in and find an answer.

    “Make yourself valuable – the data is all in there,” adds Hansen.