Training farm personnel has positive impacts on animal well-being and performance, thus increasing overall farm profitability.
The performance of dairy cows is mainly determined by genetic merit, but without proper management by knowledgeable and capable farm personnel, dairy cows will not be able to fully express their genetic potential. In order to properly manage dairy cows to allow them to excel, it is critical to establish a reliable team of farm personnel who are routinely trained using up-to- date and easy-to-understand training materials. Despite the unquestionable importance of personnel training in dairy farms, only 60% of the dairy operations in the U.S. provide such training (USDA, 2014). Of this 60%, 41% provide oral presentation trainings, while only 12% provide training using interactive teaching methods, such as educational videos (USDA, 2014).
The cost of providing proper training to farm personnel may be insignificant compared to the benefits to animal health and performance observed in operations where personnel were properly trained. Some of the most significant improvements in farm profitability resulting from these programs were increase in milk yield (4 lb/cow/day), decrease in the number of stillborn calves (2.29%), and decrease in retained placenta (2.6%) and metritis (1.59%) incidences. It has been reported that cows that had a stillborn calf had a 24% decrease in pregnancy rate (Bicalho et al., 2007), and cows that had retained placenta or metritis had a 14% and 15% decrease in conception rate, respectively (Gröhn and Rajala-Schultz, 2000). Therefore, personnel training, especially in transition cow management, may have substantial benefits on the reproductive performance of dairy cows.
Personnel training is not only important to monitor and control critical risk factors of poor reproductive performance during the transition period, but also to obtain excellent compliance with fertility protocols. Timed artificial insemination is one of the most common breeding practices performed in dairy operations in the U.S. (USDA, 2009). During these fertility programs, specific synchronization hormones must be provided to dairy cows on specific days, and lack of compliance with the synchronization injections can significantly decrease the efficacy of the program. For instance, in a fertility program where three injections must be administered, if there is a 100% compliance (e.g., proper drug, proper dose, correct day/time) with each injection the overall program compliance would be 100% (overall program compliance = 100% × 100% × 100% = 100%). Now, if the compliance with each individual injection decreases to 95%, instead of 100%, the overall program compliance decreases to 86% (overall program compliance = 95% × 95% × 95% = 86%). This situation becomes even more detrimental in fertility programs that require several injections, such as Double-Ovsynch, where six single injections must be administered to synchronize cows. In this scenario, a compliance of 95% for each individual injection would decrease the overall program compliance to 73.5%, resulting in a significant negative impact on the reproductive performance of the animals being synchronized.
The training of farm personnel has positive impacts on animal well-being and performance, thus increasing the overall farm profitability. Training programs that deliver up-to- date information in an easy-to-understand manner increase knowledge, skills, and confidence of farm employees, all of which may improve employee performance and subsequently enhance cow health and production. The implementation of these training programs in main areas, such as transition cow management and fertility programs, is an inexpensive practice that would greatly contribute to ensuring excellent reproduction in dairy operations.
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Bicalho, R. C., K. N. Galvão, S. H. Cheong, R. O. Gilbert, L. D. Warnick, and C. L. Guard. 2007. Effect of stillbirths on dam survival and reproduction performance in Holstein dairy cows. J. Dairy Sci. 90:2797–2803. doi:10.3168/jds.2006-504.
Gröhn, Y. T., and P. J. Rajala-Schultz. 2000. Epidemiology of reproductive performance in dairy cows. Anim. Reprod. Sci. 60–61:605–614. doi:10.1016/S0378-4320(00)00085-3.
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