Monitor, Motivate and Manage with Dairy Performance Navigator
Anne Davison, Dairy Consultant Manager, Genex
Monitor, motivate and manage are three words that come to mind when I think about the Dairy Performance Navigator℠ (DPN) and important aspects of dairy farms in the 21st century. I am a member of the Genex U.S. Technical SErvices team working as a Regional Account Specialist in the northeast U.S., and DPN is a powerful Web-based program that allows me to take herd information and translate it into powerful profit metrics and trends.
Those metrics and trends allow producers to monitor their dairy's performance over time as well as compare to a benchmark of herds similar in size or in the same region. Seeing where the dairy excels and where there is opportunity for improvement can be very motivating. In turn, this understanding can enable you to get a better handle on the management of important aspects of herd profitability such as: herd inventory, reproduction, production, culling, milk quality, etc.
I want to show you how I use DPN to bring knowledge and power to producers. DPN is a program meant to collect data over time. Just like most everything in life, the more you put into it, the more you can get out of it. From an accuracy point of view, I like to have a download or back up of herd management information to put into DPN at least once a month for every herd using the program.
Before meeting with a producer and/or the herd management team, I analyze the dairy's data within DPN. The DPN dashboard provides a quick overview of herd trends on easy-to read graphs. Figures 1 through 4 are examples of graphs from the dashboard.
Figure 1. Herd Inventory: Cow and heifer numbers have stayed fairly consistent. There was a slight decrease in replacements starting in August. That decrease opens up a question as to why.
Figure 2. Pregnancy Rate by Lactation: All lactations had a decrease in pregnancy rate from August through October. They are now back on the rise in November. The pregnancy rate decline was most likely due to summer heat.
Figure 3. Average Production: Milk production averages increased from April to July. Averages then decreased from 99 lbs per cow to 85 lbs per cow in October. The average is now back to 90 lbs. This leads to further investigation and discussion on what changed within that time period.
Figure 4. Heifer Pregnancy Rate and Conception Rate by Month: The heifer pregnancy rate and conception rate increased in July. For the past several months they have leveled out, decreasing only slightly from peak rates.
As you can see, the dashboard provides a quick glimpse into what has changed in a herd over time. It obviously also brings up a lot of questions. To help find some of those answers, one has to dig deeper into the program and the data it provides. Each topic area - herd inventory, cow reproduction, culling, production, milk quality and so on - includes much more in-depth data points. In this example, I provide a further look into the cow reproduction and production information.
One of my favorite features of DPN is that information is provided in both graphic and table form. Table 1 includes just a very small portion of the cow reproduction information covered within the program. The table provides a benchmark, the herd's rolling 12-month average for each data point and month by month figures. The particular herd in this example is in the top 10% of herds for average milk by herd size. As you can see, their pregnancy rate is slightly lower than the benchmark, but appears to be increasing following the "summer slump." The percent of cows pregnant in the herd by 150 days in milk (DIM) is well above the benchmark. The percent of herd pregnant is slightly above the benchmark, having risen again following the hot months of the year. The herd's 12-month rolling average service rate is fantastic at 6.8 points above the benchmark.
Another section of DPN within the cow reproduction area breaks down conception rate by lactation (1st, 2nd, 3rd and greater). Table 2 shows conception rate information for first lactation animals. As you can see, the herd does a good job of getting animals pregnant on the first service. They have a 12-month rolling first service conception rate of 53%.
Now, let's move on to the herd's production information. Table 3 is an example of some of the more in-depth production data within DPN. The data is displayed similarly to the reproduction section in that columns name the data point and show the benchmark, rolling 12-month herd average and month-by-month numbers.
In this particular herd, you can see that milk production peaked at 99 lbs during June. The herd is also at the benchmark for average DIM. The herd's rolling 12-month average for average peak milk is at 111 lbs, just short of the 113 lb benchmark. Average days to peak production has improved. The December 2012 data shows peak production at 111 DIM. In the most recent month, November 2013, milk production is peaking at 74 DIM.
When I bring DPN to the farm, I develop a report summarizing the key events that have occurred over a given time period (Figure 5). A printed version of the report allows farm management team members to look over all important graphs and tables.
DPN is a great program to help the farm management team monitor, motivate and manage. The knowledge it can provide is vast. With the ability to watch trends develop over weeks, months and eventually years, it can give producers a huge advantage in developing and monitoring management strategies.
Remember that DPN is not meant to replace good management practices but enhance what is already there. And, I understand that not all answers can be found on the computer. "You also have to look at the cows out in the barn. in the end, those cows are the absolute vital organs of a dairy farm. But, if something seems awry, DPN is a good place to start. it can help farm management teams figure out when the problem may have started and thereby help to determine steps to remedy the issue.
For more information on DPN please feel free to contact your local Genex representative.