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Help teach workers to evaluate herd health

Tom Fuhrmann DVM Published on 21 September 2009

Herdsmen and other workers often need to do “veterinary things.” They may treat sick cows, give hormone injections or treat mastitis.

As a veterinarian, I want to help you help them do these jobs better.



In fact, most veterinarians want to help and train, but the English/Spanish language barrier reduces their capacity to do that.

Here are some tips to assist your herdsman to care for sick cows better.

1. Teach your herdsman to use these steps when evaluating every sick cow the first time she is examined:

A. Get recent information: How much milk at last test? How many days in milk (DIM)? Did she have previous problems this lactation?

B. Do a physical exam: thermometer, stethoscope and palpation. Determine current health status of the cow.


C. Make a diagnosis: this is the name of this cow’s health problem. Without a diagnosis, it is impossible to apply a treatment protocol.

D. Determine a prognosis: What are the chances for recovery? Should this cow be treated or culled? Do you need to teach your herdsman your philosophy on treating versus culling?

E. Apply the correct treatment protocol: Teach your herdsman to follow the protocol written by you and the herd veterinarian.

2. Train your herdsman to answer the following questions on every potential sick cow:

A. Is this cow sick? Use the thermometer, stethoscope and palpation sleeve. Teach to distinguish normal from abnormal.

B. Where is the problem? This is the diagnosis. For example, does this cow have metritis, metritis with indigestion or metritis with indigestion and a DA? Once your herdsman has all the information, it is easy to apply the correct treatment protocol(s).


C. How sick is she? Distinguish between light, moderate or severe sickness regardless of the diagnosis:

• Light mastitis is abnormal milk but no quarter swelling and no elevated temperature. Mastitis tube administration only.
• Light metritis is elevated temperature, but normal rumen rumbling and abnormal uterine discharge. Systemic antibiotics only.
• Moderate mastitis is abnormal milk; elevated temperature and/or quarter swelling. Administer tubes and systemic therapy.
• Moderate metritis is a cow with elevated temperature, rumen rumbling at 50 percent and abnormal uterine discharge. Systemic antibiotics and supportive therapy to stimulate appetite.
• Severe mastitis is brown, watery milk, markedly elevated temperature, no rumen rumbling and a depressed animal. IV fluids and anti-inflammatory medications in addition to mastitis treatment protocol.
• Severe metritis is a cow with elevated temperature but no rumen rumbling, depressed disposition, has sunken eyes. Basic metritis treatment protocol plus anti-inflammatory medications and supportive IV fluids. PD

Tom Fuhrmann
President of Dairy Works