Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops Enrollment

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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

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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Income and Real Property Tax Primer-A Learning Circle for Women Non-Operating Land Owners of Ag Land

July 24, 2019
9:00 am - 3:00 pm
Portageville, NY

For many of us taxes can be a mystery, let's have a conversation with the experts about the tax considerations agricultural landowners need to think about. 
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Pasture Walk with the Finger Lakes Graziers-Cancelled!

July 29, 2019
12:45 - 4 pm

The Finger Lakes Graziers pasture walk has been cancelled due to some scheduling conflicts. 
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RMA Announces Additional One-time Changes to Prevented Planting Provisions

June 29, 2019

RMA Announces Additional One-time Changes to Prevented Planting Provisions
for 2019 Crop Year

In response to delayed and prevented planting resulting from above average rainfall and wetness, the USDA Risk Management Agency has made a one-time change to the 2019 crop year prevented planting rules that effectively allows silage corn, if planted as a cover crop following local agricultural expert guidelines, to be acceptable as a post-prevented planting cover crop. Under this one-time rule change, producers are allowed to produce this crop while retaining their prevented planting payment. This change couples with previously announced one-time changes to the prevented planting rules - including expanded acceptable uses for post-prevented planting cover crops and a change in the cover crop haying and grazing start date rule - serve to help those struggling to meet their forage needs due to the weather.

Read the full article from the New York Crop Insurance Education Program.

The USDA-RMA states that "For crop insurance purposes, a cover crop is a crop generally recognized by agricultural experts as agronomically sound for the area for erosion control or other purposes related to conservation or soil improvement." PRO-DAIRY specialists Joe Lawrence and Karl Czymmek and Dr. Quirine Ketterings, Professor and Director of Cornell Nutrient Management Spear Program have released a letter stating "Corn on Prevented Planting acres meets these objectives."

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