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Standard Operating Procedures - Make Consistency a Priority

Libby Eiholzer, Bilingual Dairy
Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops

June 14, 2013

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are important in any workplace, but especially on dairy farms. Since cows are creatures of habit, small changes in their environment and the way that they are handled can cause them a lot of stress. If a cow is stressed when she enters the parlor, she won't let down her milk right away. Having a milker attached before she has let down causes damage to teat ends, which can lead to mastitis. Not getting milked out can lead to the same. Creating and enforcing SOPs in all areas of the farm, especially where more than one person is doing a specific job, is one way to ensure that cows are being cared for properly, even when the boss isn't present.

Arguably one of the more important SOPs on a dairy farm is the milking routine. Does your farm have an established milking routine? Do all your milkers follow it consistently? When you hire new employees, who is in charge of training them? If the answer is their coworkers, then you should be on the lookout for protocol drift. Little changes in procedure can add up over time. Let's say part of your milking protocol is to strip four squirts of milk from each teat. If no one is checking in on the milkers, or they aren't taught why four squirts is important, these employees might let that slide to only three squirts over time. The next new employees you hire will most likely be trained to strip three squirts by your current employees. If this trend continues unchecked over time, you might walk into the parlor one day and find all your employees dipping, wiping and attaching without forestripping at all, and sincerely believing that they are doing what is expected of them. 

One way to keep your routine consistent is to create visual reminders for yourself and for your employees. The first step is to write down the steps to complete the job. If you've never done this before, it might take a couple of drafts before you're able to capture all the important points. Add pictures to make it more explicit. Then test out your SOP, preferably on someone who doesn't have experience in this area of the farm. Pull someone out of the shop to try out the milking SOP, or someone from the parlor to try the SOP for running the pasteurizer. Observe them as they follow the SOP and make adjustments to any steps that aren't clear. Finally, print and laminate the SOP and hang it in a convenient location.

Interested in having a customized Spanish/English milking routine poster created for your farm? Laminated 18x24 posters are available for $47, and 16x20 for $52. Contact Libby Gaige for more information at or 607-793-4847.

Milking Routine Poster (pdf; 129KB)











calendar of events

Upcoming Events

Dairy Cattle Summer Research Update

July 18, 2019
Batavia, NY

After the day's work is done, come hear about two new research trials conducted by Julio Giordano's lab:
  • Strategies for improving dairy cattle reproductive performance and economics
  • Using automated sensors for improving dairy cattle health monitoring and management

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Weed Resistance Management Demonstration and Plot Tour

Event Offers DEC Credits

July 23, 2019
1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Waterloo, NY

Come join us on July 23 in Seneca County at Quinten Good's farm for a demonstration and walking tour of 16 different pre- and post-emergence treatments in soybean and 12 different treatments and combinations in corn.
  • Tall waterhemp and marestail are two weeds that are resistant to glyphosate and ALS herbicide modes of action in the WNY and Finger Lakes regions.
  • Each year the number of acres with resistant weed populations expands.
  • For herbicides to be an effective tool in weed management, we have to know what chemistries & application timings are most effective against these resistant weeds.

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Pasture Walk with the Finger Lakes Graziers

July 29, 2019
12:45 - 4 pm
Waterloo, NY

Join the Finger Lakes Graziers on a pasture walk and learn about soil health. 
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USDA Announces New Decision Tool for New Dairy Margin Coverage Program

WASHINGTON, April 30, 2019 ? Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced today the availability of a new web-based tool - developed in partnership with the University of Wisconsin - to help dairy producers evaluate various scenarios using different coverage levels through the new Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program.

The 2018 Farm Bill authorized
DMC, a voluntary risk management program that offers financial protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all milk price and the average feed cost (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer. It replaces the program previously known as the Margin Protection Program for Dairy. Sign up for this USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) program opens on June 17.

"With sign-up for the
DMC program just weeks away, we encourage producers to use this new support tool to help make decisions on participation in the program," Secretary Perdue said. "Dairy producers have faced tough challenges over the years, but the DMC program should help producers better weather the ups and downs in the industry."

The University of Wisconsin launched the decision support tool in cooperation with FSA and funded through a cooperative agreement with the USDA Office of the Chief Economist. The tool was designed to help producers determine the level of coverage under a variety of conditions that will provide them with the strongest financial safety net. It allows farmers to simplify their coverage level selection by combining operation data and other key variables to calculate coverage needs based on price projections.

The decision tool assists producers with calculating total premiums costs and administrative fees associated with participation in
DMC. It also forecasts payments that will be made during the coverage year.

The new Dairy Margin Coverage program offers very appealing options for all dairy farmers to reduce their net income risk due to volatility in milk or feed prices," said Dr. Mark Stephenson, Director of Dairy Policy Analysis, University of Wisconsin, Madison. "Higher coverage levels, monthly payments, and more flexible production coverage options are especially helpful for the sizable majority of farms who can cover much of their milk production with the new five million pound maximum for Tier 1 premiums. This program deserves the careful consideration of all dairy farmers."

For more information, access the tool at For
DMC sign up, eligibility and related program information, visit or contact your local USDA Service Center. To locate your local FSA office, visit

New Guidance for Mortality Disposal Issued

NYS Department of Ag and Markets has posted guidelines on disposal of livestock carcasses, in response to reports that some rendering companies have halted pickups from farms.|1