Warner, D., Vasseur, E., Villettaz Robichaud, M. et al. 2020. Development of a benchmarking tool for dairy herd management using routinely collected herd records. Animals 10(9), 1689.
Continuous assessment of the herd status is important in order to monitor and adjust to changes in the welfare and health status but can be time consuming and expensive. In this study, herd status indicators from routinely collected dairy herd improvement (DHI) records were used to develop a remote herd assessment tool with the aim to help producers and advisors benchmark the herd status and identify herd management issues affecting welfare and health. Thirteen DHI indicators were selected from an initial set of 72 potential indicators collected on 4324 dairy herds in Eastern Canada. Data were normalized to percentile ranks and aggregated to a composite herd status index (HSI) with equal weights among indicators. Robustness analyses indicated little fluctuation for herds with a small HSI (low status) or large HSI (high status), suggesting that herds in need of support could be prioritized and effectively monitored over time, limiting the need for time-consuming farm visits. This tool allows evaluating herds relative to their peers through the composite index and highlighting specific areas with opportunities for improvements through the individual indicators. This procedure could be applied to similar multidimensional livestock farming issues, such as environmental and socio-economic studies.