The other evening, I was rocking my daughter to sleep for the third time that night. She is getting three molars and fighting a cold, so she’s having a rough few days. It’s been a long time since I rocked her to sleep. These days she snuggles for a few minutes, but she likes to fall asleep in her own bed.

At first, I was annoyed and frustrated. As usual, I had a full day planned out – and she’d already cut her afternoon nap short, so I was running behind. However, the longer I rocked her, the more I noticed how much she’d grown. She used to fit in my arms, and now she takes over my lap. Her hair is so much thicker, and it’s starting to curl at the ends. And her baby rolls are starting to fade into the body of an active toddler. Perhaps the biggest change, though, is her ability to clearly articulate her desire for more snuggles.

I look at her every day. I cuddle, hug, read and play with her daily. I notice how her pants are too short again or that she’s too tall to walk under our dining room table without bumping her head. Yet it took these forced quiet moments to actually notice, not just her basic growth but the way she’s changing from a baby to a toddler.

As I thought about it more, I realized this oversight applies to much more than a toddler’s growth. Whether it’s kids, calves or cows, details matter. Noticing that my daughter is putting her fingers in her mouth more than usual means I’ll check for a new tooth coming in and hopefully be able to provide a little relief for her. Noticing the calf curled up in the corner and treating it before it’s really sick could be key to keeping that animal from becoming seriously ill – and potentially keep it from spreading illness to its fellow calves.

And that’s the reality of it. Details matter. For example, in his article, Matt Dodd discusses “Three key management phases to prevent respiratory disease.” In the article, he lists details like when to vaccinate cows to help maximize colostrum quality, how and when to feed calves colostrum, feed additives to include in the calf ration, ways to help reduce stress and working with your veterinarian to develop protocols specifically for your dairy. He doesn’t suggest major facility changes or switching to a new system entirely. The changes are small, like administering vaccinations five to six weeks prior to calving instead of at week 4 or week 7, or ensuring your farm has effective cleaning protocols.


Similarly, in his article, Scott Holt points out how properly placing an eartag is essential for calf comfort and for helping to keep the tag in place (Tagging of calves done right enables modern dairy management). Too far in and the tag might pinch the calf’s ear, causing discomfort. Too close to the edge of the ear, and the tag could easily be pulled out, which creates more work. Too high or too low, and the tag could hit one of the veins in the ear, causing bleeding – or it could go through the thick cartilage, causing infection or deforming the ear.

When I first had my daughter, everyone told me to make sure I took plenty of pictures and captured all the little moments with her. On a day-to-day basis, it sometimes seems silly. Looking back now, I see why. Those little details add up and turn into big changes. Small changes on the dairy are no different. There might not be an immediate difference, but over the months and years those little modifications can have a huge impact on animal health, productivity, efficiency and so much more.