Accountability of dairy welfare, judicious use of drugs, and dairy management (Proceedings)


Accountability of dairy welfare, judicious use of drugs, and dairy management (Proceedings)

Aug 01, 2010

Opponents of food animal use rhetoric and disturbing images to incriminate lack of welfare, criticize drug usage, and incriminate modern care practices if they weren't the same method of care as in the past. They have an audience of consumers that have little or no knowledge of food animal care. Many of the consumers can only base their beliefs on comparisons with treatment of companion animals.

As messengers of the animal care story we are an even smaller proportion of the population than the agricultural community, but when we keep the welfare of the animal as the priority as we stated in the development of the written treatment protocol we have a credible position that offsets the loss of credibility we experience because we are a business that supports agriculture. However to maintain that credibility we need to be accountable that what we say is being offered is actually the cow side practices.

The treatment records kept cow side can be developed into herd monitors that will demonstrate accountability and reach beyond rhetoric to tangible measures of the practices performed by dairies. Even the 3rd party welfare audits, which have been developed with the best intentions, are still based on rhetoric. With a little organization we can use cow side records to demonstrate early and complete detection of mild cases of the conditions treated and the drug protocol will demonstrate the drug attitude of the dairy.

Mastitis is a good condition to use as an example for welfare, drug usage, and the dairies practices. The written protocol sets the stage to go beyond words to hard data with nothing more complex than the organizing a 1 definition/ 1 treatment /1 recording plan. With this modest recording we can to collate records for tangible information about:

     • How much mastitis is there? (Cases/100 cows for a time period)
     • The sensitivity of the detection process especially towards mild cases can be measured
           o The proportion of cows with mild cases is an indicator to sensitivity of detecting mastitis. (Depending on the dominant pathogen between 50-70% mild cases is expected.)
           o The proportion of primary cases with subclinical mastitis is an indicator of sensitivity of detection. (Expect <40% of cases to start with SCC>200,000 when mild cases are detected.)
           o The proportion of cows that have a primary case versus a second or more case is an indicator of detection sensitivity. (Expect >60% of cases to be primary.)
           o The inclusion of pre strip in the mastitis technique is an indicator of attitude to detection of mild cases. (Mild cases can't be found without pre-stripping by condition definition.)
     • Prudent drug usage can be demonstrated in the mild cases treatment plan?
           o Both in the written protocols and treatment remarks include the herd's drug usage policy.
     • Protocol drift is easily detected by regular monitoring of current cases. (Drift is an indication of dissatisfaction.)
           o The milking protocol can drift – (Dip , strip, dry, and apply)
           o The Clinical mastitis SOP can drift – (detection, examination, treatment decision and assessment)
           o Treatments can drift from written treatment plan and recording compliance
           o People can drift from the condition definition/drug protocol plan

To accomplish this list of tangible accountabilities an additional piece of data needed to be included with a case of mastitis; the pre mastitis SCC if we wanted to measure the proportion of cases that have a high SCC pre mastitis. Adding information to the recording instructions is easy when we make the entry efficient and the information has value for the dairy also.

However the concern level on most dairies is for the more severe cases treatment plans. However when we understand the magnitude and epidemiology of the mild group the management of drugs and prevention improves. Depending on what is found is being done currently, the mild cases is also where the most improvement in the managing of mastitis costs and return is likely to be found.