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Software program helps dairy avoid ‘The List’

Dave Wilkins Published on 19 January 2012

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Bruce Whitmire is doing everything he can to stay off “The List.”

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The list in this case is made up of dairies that have attempted to sell cows for slaughter that have unsafe drug residues in their tissues.

Whitmire, herd manager at the Si-Ellen Dairy near Jerome, Idaho, probably has little to worry about, thanks to long-standing practices at the dairy and some new drug-tracking software.

Si-Ellen recently added a new software program to its computer system called RxPlus that helps track animal drug usage.

“Mainly, we really did it because of the federal regulations,” Whitmire said.

“With the federal laws and regulations on drug residue in meat, I thought this would be just an extra set of eyes for us when we’re beefing cattle.”

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By now every dairy producer in the country should be aware of the increased focus on drug residue in milk and meat. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has stepped up enforcement.

Like most dairymen, Whitmire has no desire to run afoul of federal food and drug laws and feels a responsibility to produce only safe products.

“We supply the general public, so you better go by the rules and regulations to make the consumer comfortable,” he said.

To help in that effort, Si-Ellen recently added the RxPlus drug tracking module to its computer system.

The program, offered by DHI-Provo, easily integrates into the DHI-Plus herd management system.

Working closely with his veterinarian and DHI-Provo’s support staff, Whitmire first set up drug treatment protocols for every possible illness or condition from mastitis to pneumonia.

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They also put together a drug library and entered all of the information into the computer after the new software was downloaded.

With the new program, producers can easily implement treatment protocols, including dosage. Every morning, the modules automatically schedule exact daily treatments for each cow as well as withholding times for milk and meat.

A display box clearly shows the OK dates and indicates by color whether an animal is cleared to go or not.

“As soon as you pull her up (on the computer screen), it’s either red-flagged or it’s gray,” Whitmire said. “If it’s red, you better be looking at what’s going on – what meds you gave her, and it tells you right there on her health screen. So you can say, ‘No, she’s not cleared to go.’”

It took a little while to become familiar with the new system, but Whitmire now regards it as a valuable tool.

“Once you get used to it, it’s great,” he said.

“It’s fabulous. It’s just an extra set of eyes that really helps. If you get caught with drug residue at the beef yard, you get on this list, and I don’t want to be on the list. I don’t want Si-Ellen to be on the list.”

Si-Ellen, which milks about 8,100 cows and raises nearly 7,000 heifers, has always put a big emphasis on herd health and proper drug treatment.

The dairy has a separate double-eight hospital milking parlor, so sick cows never set foot in the main milk barn.

Whitmire uses the RxPlus system on a desktop PC, entering each day’s hospital data from written records collected by his herdsmen.

The system can also be used on a mobile handheld device with the optional Pocket Rx-Plus module, allowing for the recording or retrieval of treatment data by scanning RFID tags.

Whitmire hasn’t gone that far – yet.

“I just feel so comfortable with my guys going in there with paper and writing those numbers down and cross-referencing, I haven’t taken that step of letting them use (RFID scanners) in the hospital yet. I’m getting there,” Whitmire said.

Screening animals for health issues, applying proper treatments and tracking recovery is more important now than ever, said Ladd Muirbrook, account executive at DHI-Provo.

He encourages dairy producers to establish a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship and work closely with their vet to review drug treatment protocols periodically to keep them up to date.

“If an animal still shows up with a residue and you have treated her according to the label and according to the protocol the vet has prescribed, then you stand a much better chance of avoiding penalties than if you are using the drug differently,” Muirbrook said.

The RxPlus system can be useful for any size dairy, Muirbrook said.

“It’s a very simple tool to use,” he said. “We have dairies using it with under 100 cows, and we have dairies with over 10,000 cows using it. It’s useful to each.” PD

Wilkins is a freelance writer based in Twin Falls, Idaho.

YOUR RESULTS
Could your dairy benefit from use of the RxPlus module? The following checklist can be used to determine if this new technology might fit your operation.

1. Do you use a computer to track milk production, inventory and other data?

2. Would you like to become more organized?

3. Do you currently use DHI-Provo’s herd management software?

4. Do you have a close working relationship with a veterinarian?

5. Do you want to improve your ability to track drug usage and stay in compliance with FDA treatment protocols and record-keeping requirements?

6. Are you comfortable with computer technology or at least recognize its potential benefits?

7. Do you want to stay off “The List?”

PHOTO:
“It’s fabulous. It’s just an extra set of eyes that really helps. If you get caught with drug residue at the beef yard, you get on this list, and I don’t want to be on the list.” Photo courtesy Dave Wilkins.

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