June 28 2024 08:51 AM

Health-focused herd management tools provide powerful insights to improve cow care and your bottom line.

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.

Use health-focused herd management software to improve comfort and enhance your cows’ health.

Preventive measures are key to keeping your herd healthy and profitable. But when unforeseen factors like environment, weather or disease outbreaks disrupt your preventative health program, quick and calculated interventions improve your cow care and your bottom line.

Melissa Freitas is the farm performance consultant team leader at VAS.

“With the right herd management tool, you can be alerted to and intervene in health issues early. Using your data can help prevent those challenges in the future by adjusting management practices,” says Melissa Freitas, farm performance consultant team leader at VAS. “It’s easier to make the best health-related decisions when you have all the information you need at your fingertips.”

Using a herd management tool with health-focused features, you can gain insights into your herd’s health, compare your data with peer performance, evaluate the cost of health events and stay in the know with real-time alerts. Get started with the following tips:

Monitor health events in real time

Setting up alerts within your herd management software keeps you one step ahead of health issues. Set your threshold tolerance for health events to match your management goals. If a specific event, such as mastitis, trends near your threshold, you will receive a text or email alert.

“The beauty of alerts is once they are set up, they run in the background of your daily tasks. It’s not another thing you must remember to do daily,” says Freitas. “Easily set it up and reap the benefits.”

Without alerts, you may only notice an issue through weekly reporting and team status meetings. By then, the issue is seven days old and more significant than if you caught it immediately.

Set up your alerts to send to your team. If your trends are near your threshold, everyone on your team with access can also be alerted with a real-time text or email. This timely response improves hospital treatments, creates higher-quality fresh cow care and leads to faster recovery for your cows. Not to mention the cost savings achieved through early intervention.

“Communication is a big deal on the farm and alerts help bring everyone together at one moment,” says Freitas. “By alerting the herd manager, maternity manager, veterinarian and other important team members, everyone is on the same page, improving overall response time to health issues.”

Manage animal health and costs

How much is medicine costing you? How much is a dip in milk production due to a health event impacting your business? Are your cows comfortable? Health-focused herd management software uses data to help you answer these questions and evaluate the profitability of your herd on an individual cow level.

For example, HealthVAL an insight tool available to DairyComp and MyDC on PULSE users, assigns each animal a Health Index value, which is calculated based on age and total cost of their health events. Customizing thresholds for the Health Index helps you identify the animals that fail to meet your expectations. You can then use this data to evaluate which animals pose the highest risk to your bottom line and select candidates to leave the herd.

Benchmark your success

Benchmarking against industry averages is a great way to check your herd health performance. However, seasonality and region-specific factors impact what happens on your farm and alter your expectations for herd performance.

Using dynamic benchmarking, HealthVAL allows you to compare your performance to your peers filtering by state, breed, herd size and more.

“It is a nice way to see how our trends compare to those in similar situations,” says Dave Friesen, cow manager of a 4,000-cow dairy in Iowa. “Without calling your neighbors, you can look at specific benchmarks and ask yourself, is this normal?”

The dairy recently used this data to change its nutrition plan for close-up dry cows. After noticing they were trending above the benchmark for metritis in their area, Friesen decided to try a DCAD diet. The farm plans to track the results of this change with their data management program and see how it trends with benchmarks of other local farms.

Customize health reports

“Customization is a must when it comes to herd management tools” says Freitas. “Your data reporting should match your individual needs. Build reports that matter to you and group things that make the most sense for your dairy.”

Dive into what is happening on your dairy by analyzing case counts and occurrences for standard health events like mastitis, ketosis, metritis and pneumonia. Customize the health events you want to manage closely, how you view events and filter results based on your top interests.

“Having a tool that brings all your health data into one place allows you to quickly analyze and evaluate your herd’s health trends and make smart management decisions that help your bottom line,” concludes Freitas.

Contact your VAS representative to learn more about how you can improve your herd’s health with HealthVAL.

VAS is the global market leader in connected farm management systems. For 40 years, VAS has been the operating system of choice for the most innovative dairies. VAS' software and information solutions help collect and connect a farm's data – from herd management to feed performance, tracking and more. These insights are a source of truth, empowering producers and their trusted advisors to make profit-driven and sustainable management decisions. At the forefront of thought leadership within the dairy industry, VAS is trusted by the producers we serve and the greater dairy community.