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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 geg24@cornell.edu or 607-793-4847.


Milking Routine Poster (pdf; 129KB)


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Upcoming Events

NWNY Dairy Day 2022

December 6, 2022
Batavia, NY

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Theme: The Future of Your Dairy's Youngstock

The NWNY Dairy, Livestock and Field Crops team will be holding it's first "Dairy Day" this December! We will be bringing the latest in dairy research to you with this in-person, 1-day conference.

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January 5, 2023
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The NWNY Team Blog

Our goal for this blog is to share with farmers and allied industry professionals, technical and applicable resources regarding all aspects of dairy farming, livestock and small farms, field crops and soils, and topics related to farm business management and precision agriculture.

The blog will feature Crop Alerts, Dairy Alerts, Bilingual (Spanish) Resources, Upcoming Events and more from our team members. This blog is free for everyone to use, explore and enjoy. When new material is published, subscribers will receive an email notification.

We hope you enjoy this new platform, and are looking forward to engaging with you in the future!
https://blogs.cornell.edu/nwny-dairy-livestock-field-crops/


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