PCDart Dairy Herd records analysis
Mel Wenger DVM
The large animal doctors at the Orrville Veterinary Clinic, Inc. include herd records analysis as part of our comprehensive dairy herd health management. Many herds in our area use PCDart as the records data base when they do their monthly milk testing. This record service is usually provided by DHI or Dairy One, two of the local testing services. The records are generated each month, but much of the information is not properly utilized due to lack of time and the ability to glean the information that will be most helpful in making farm management decisions. We offer this analysis as part of our service to keep the relevant information in front of the veterinarian and producer each month in order to make management decisions.
PCDart is based out of Raleigh, NC. With the farm owner’s permission, we access the monthly records using the private RAC code provided by the owner. Our office downloads a summary of the test day records each month. From the summary sheet, we develop a spreadsheet with the most relevant information relating to management. We mainly focus on 3 areas; production, reproduction, and milk quality. If you are not aware of this service, please ask to see an example of this information to determine if it could be helpful to you.
When it comes to production; we track the cow numbers (both milking and dry), rolling herd average, days dry, days open, daily production, etc. We track how the past 12 months are trending. If we see a trend we are not comfortable with in any of these areas, we can open up PCDart and dig deeper into the records to see what the problem may be. Often times, ration changes or feed quality cause changes in production. We have the ability to graph these changes from month to month and year to year.
In terms of Reproduction; we track the pregnancy rate, conception rates on first service, overall conception rates, days to first breeding, percent of herd pregnant, services/conception, cull rate, etc. The pregnancy rate is a good indicator of how the breeding is going through the year. From this information, we will set up the best breeding program for your herd. This may be timed AI or a locomotion monitoring system, which we are utilized more and more. Our goals are to get the cows bred in a timely manner, to keep the herd in production, and to improve the number of replacement animals.
In the milk quality area, we track the somatic cell count (SCC), daily production, and the butterfat and protein content of the milk. Tracking SCC has been valuable in helping to make decisions to lower SCC, thus improving milk quality. Improving the quality of milk impacts profitability by increasing the amount the milk is worth. Butterfat and protein levels are greatly influenced by the nutrition. In many instances, feed changes are first noticed from the records analysis. Most of the milk check is based on the fat and protein content of the milk.
The PCDart records contain valuable information. There is a lot more information behind the summary to dig deeper into problems. Tracking trends is a good way to know the direction you are heading. If you are not utilizing a monthly testing service, we can still keep track of certain herd data. We can make up a custom report in this situation to help track the herd information.
Please ask your herd veterinarian about this valuable service. We will incorporate the records analysis into your monthly herd visit.
Mel Wenger DVM 9/29/18