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Hoof-trimming records are worth the time

Vic Daniel Published on 17 July 2015

Time is money. Business owners and managers know that time management is the basis of a successful business, and good recordkeeping is vital to provide direction. When it comes to taking care of your herd’s hoof health, quality records are invaluable to establishing management decisions and well worth the time.

Recording hoof health is a very good business strategy for both the dairyman and the hoof trimmer. Good-quality records accomplish three things:

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1.A benchmark of the dairy herd’s foot health at a specific date

2.Allow an analysis of the type and severity of lesions that cause lameness in the herd

3.Create an opportunity for the farm management team to compare current and past reports (Is the herd’s foot health where our goal is, going backward or progressing toward a target goal of minimal lameness?)

The simplest form of a basic record is the hoof trimmer’s bill. It shows how many cows were trimmed and how many blocks and wraps were applied. The next level is a paper record noting individual cows and their hoof health profiles with the date of the trim.

The step above that is to use computer programs that can recall an individual animal’s history and run an easy-to-read report sheet for the farm management. Some can even integrate into farm management programs.

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Sounds simple, right? So, why don’t all trimmers keep records? Because it takes time to enter or write down information. “I am paid to trim cows, not waste time with this administration.” This is a comment I hear from a few of my fellow trimmers, and I will address this.

How much time doesrecordkeeping really take?

I set out to address this objection by conducting my own time trial earlier this year, with the goal of establishing the financial value of a trained trimmer recording claw lesions and the actual length of time it takes to enter a cow and the data.

I used my Hoof Supervisor system (which is based on the Foot Atlas Guide) to record data and an electronic stop watch to time how long it took to enter information from five animals of varying foot health. The results were as follows (see Table 1).

data entry times

On average, it took 10 seconds per animal to enter their identification into a computer on a chute, causing a negative time benefit to the trimmer. If a trimmer moves 50 cattle through in a day, that is 500 seconds – the equivalent of eight minutes or 1.5 cows using my equipment.

It took an average of 20 seconds to enter typical lesions, causing a negative time benefit to the trimmer. To put that into perspective, if I entered lesion records for 20 cows (40 percent of a group of 50 animals) at that rate, it would take another 400 seconds, or 6.8 minutes.

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That said, electronic recording costs the trimmer approximately 15 minutes of productivity per day, which is the equivalent of the time it takes to trim two or three cows. Multiply that by 20 working days a month, and you have an explanation as why many trimmers do not record.

However, using recording and investing in training and a computer program is the best way for a trimmer to make money. How? By proving to the farm that problems do exist and allowing the farm team to develop a strategy with their hoof trimmers to reduce lameness.

By implementing the strategies, hoof health can improve. Improved hoof health reduces treatment time in the trimmer’s chute, allowing more cows per day to be trimmed. More cows per day trimmed increases the chance of finding more subclinical lameness lesions that can be corrected by the trimmer, and they can be done earlier.

I have found over the 12 years I have been recording, foot health has greatly improved in my problem herds. I get more cows to trim because we have more time available, and I make more money. In fact, I calculate that I trim an additional five animals per day in the same time allotment as I did before recording.

Ultimately, the farm makes more money because their trimmer is trimming, not treating. This means increased milk production with healthier, happier cows. It’s a winning strategy for the whole dairy industry. PD

Vic Daniel
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