Using standard operating procedures to unlock your herd’s potential

Date published: 06 November 2019

Healthier animals are more productive, cost less to rear, have a lower environmental footprint and a higher welfare status. Standard operating procedures help reduce the variation that can occur when different people perform the same task in different ways.

Every animal in your herd should get a high level of care. Planning a standard operating procedure with your vet for the main tasks will help you to do this.

Dairy farms with several workers are best suited for the adoption of SOP’s, because often several employees share responsibility for tasks such as; milking, feeding, bedding, health and reproductive management and a variation in completing these can reduce herd performance. Standard operating procedures (SOPs) should be common on larger farms. On a family farm, SOP’s do not necessarily need to be written down, but can be the outcome of a discussion with the farm vet, the aim being to improve current management practices and health of livestock.

A SOP is simply a written step-by-step set of instructions on how to complete a task and gives an employee a detailed description of how to handle a specific task within their job. 

SOP’s can:

  • Help workers to do their job correctly in a consistent manner. 
  • Help eliminate confusion and indecision. 
  • Ensure all tasks and treatments follow veterinary advice
  • Put all workers on the same page and helps foster a team approach to getting tasks done correctly and consistently. 

When staff are involved in developing the SOP’s for the farm they feel more appreciated in their job and are more likely to perform to their full potential.

CAFRE have worked with Firmount Veterinary Practice to develop a series of SOP’s for the CAFRE Dairy Herd, encompassing the main health events that potentially impact herd performance. The SOP’s give procedures to follow for different health events such as; diagnosing/treating milk fever, mastitis treatment, lameness and drying off methodology. The SOP’s can be viewed on the CAFRE website, under the Industry Training, Knowledge Transfer section. They have recently been updated to reflect the move away from the use of critically important antibiotics, which have now been eliminated in the CAFRE Herd.  Lifetime yield for the herd is around 40,000 litres and while many different parameters feed into this result, doing things in a timely and consistent manner is a very important part. 

The development and use of SOP’s will be discussed by local vets Dr’s Brian McAuley and Keith Sheridan at an upcoming CAFRE, Dairy UK and UFU conference where Lloyd Holterman from Wisconsin, USA, will also discuss their use in his achievement of removing the use of antimicrobials from his 900 dairy cows during the last six years.

‘Unlock your herd’s potential’ is a conference for dairy farmers, organised by CAFRE, Dairy UK and the UFU. Conference dates are Tuesday 19 November, Greenmount Campus and Wednesday 20 November, Silverbirch Hotel, Omagh. Tickets cost £20 (booked before 8th Nov). Further details from the UFU website.

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