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Virginia Cooperative Extension - Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Do you have protocols in place on your farm?

Dairy Pipeline: July 2005

John F. Currin
Extension Dairy Veterinarian
(540) 231-5838 email:

Protocols are important documents in a dairy herd health program. Protocols should be in place for vaccination programs, reproductive programs, and sick cow treatment programs. There are several important steps involved in implementing protocols on your farm.

  1. Develop the protocols. You should have a meeting with all key personnel. These personnel should include farm owner(s), herdsperson, consultants, herd veterinarian, and any other key personnel.
    1. Ex. Have a meeting with the herdsperson, herd veterinarian and any consultants on the reproductive program for the herd.
  2. Communicate the protocols. Communicating protocol to personnel doing the actual work is very important. Have a meeting with all the people that will be doing the actual work and give them an opportunity to supply input and know what is expected of them.
    1. Ex. If the treatment protocol for treating toxic mastitis involves administering IV medications, and some of the farm personnel responsible for doing treatments cannot administer IV medications, the protocol will have to be changed or the personnel will need to be properly trained.
  3. Write it down. Records should be kept of all procedures performed. These can be simple paper records, records kept on farm computer, data entered through DHIA. Health records can now be downloaded to Raleigh. If you are entering health data for your herd make sure your DHIA tester has this option turned on so any consultants you work with can download and evaluate this data.
    1. Ex. It appears that the vaccination program is not working and needs to be changed because weaned calves are developing respiratory disease. In reality due to corn harvesting the calves did not get the vaccines they were supposed to get pre-weaning.
  4. Evaluate the protocols. Once you have protocols in place make a plan to review them on a regular basis to see if they are accomplishing the goals set out or if they need to be changed.
    1. Ex. At last months herd check 30 cows were administered prostaglandins and put on the list to watch for heats and breed when seen in heat. If only 10 cows were found in heat and inseminated within the next 2 weeks, a different protocol for handling open cows may need to be established.

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