THE Dairy Business Assn. (DBA) of Wisconsin and ANIMART Inc. are collaboratively educating the dairy industry on proper procedures for handling "down," or non-ambulatory, cows.
Dr. Mike Costin, ANIMART professional services veterinarian, discussed a balanced approach to handling down cows at the DBA Access Symposium on Feb. 19.
"In today's modern dairy facilities, 'down' cows are a fact of life," Costin said. "Many reasons can cause a cow to go down, ranging from disease and injury to a simple slip on the concrete. Simply stated, there is no easy way to handle a down cow or this situation. Adding to the challenge is that many outside entities are increasing their focus on how you address this challenge."
At the symposium, Costin presented the recently released "Standard Operating Procedure" (SOP) document developed by ANIMART to serve as an example protocol for handling and managing non-ambulatory cows that can be adapted for dairy operations.
Laurie Fischer, executive director of DBA, added, "With recent events, so many dairy producers were concerned about the absolute best ways of how to handle down and sick cattle. I am so pleased that our industry now has a protocol that can be used by dairy producers from around the country."
As part of the SOP, dairy operations were encouraged to select key employees with diverse skills and knowledge to serve as the "down cow team" who would be responsible for handling all down cows, based on training, by following the outlined procedures.
Using a team approach, the group would first assess the potential reason for the cow going down by using the five "Ms": metabolic, metritis, mastitis, massive peritonitis and musculoskeletal injury.
Once the cause had been properly identified, the team could correctly select the effective method for handling the cow from among five methods outlined in the document: (1) move a down cow using a sled, (2) move a down cow by means of mechanical conveyance, (3) move a down cow out of the parlor, (4) move a down cow out of the return alley or (5) move a down cow out of a stall (with the cow facing forward).
In addition to the handling procedure, the document includes the SOP for humane euthanasia and American Veterinary Medical Assn.-approved methods to use when the down cow team deems it necessary.
The document is available to the public through DBA at www.widba.com/index.php/download_file/view/561.
"We believe that working together as an industry to empower producers is the best approach, and to this end, we have made an example of Dr. Costin's down cow SOP available to the public through the Dairy Business Assn.," ANIMART president Dan Ellsworth said. "In addition, we are providing this so other veterinarians may use it as a guideline to set up farm-specific SOPs for their clients with or without our direct involvement."