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Manage people, manage milk quality

Jorge Estrada Published on 11 March 2015

When milk quality challenges arise on your dairy, how do you normally respond? By observing milking routines or reviewing milking protocols? Changing teat dip or contacting your veterinarian to discuss mastitis treatments?

Although it’s important to ensure milkers are following the necessary protocols and products are performing effectively, you might not be getting to the root of the problem. Have you checked in with your managers lately? What’s their take on herd performance? How do they feel about workflow and overall employee performance?

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On many dairies I work with, herd performance issues aren’t always the result of protocols and products but rather the result of training gaps, which can lead to a disengaged, unmotivated workforce.

All-too-familiar challenges

On one large California dairy, this was exactly the case. It showed through rising somatic cell counts (more than 300,000) and reduced revenues due to lower milk production, increased milk discard and earlier culling.

This dairy was stuck in mediocrity. Managers constantly struggled with common issues of employees not taking active roles in the outcomes on the dairy because they were not engaged. They felt they couldn’t delegate work because they didn’t trust their team to follow through. This created workflow challenges which fell back on the managers responsible for filling in productivity gaps.

This dairy isn’t alone. Common labor challenges I see include poor delegation of work, high employee turnover, lack of clear expectations and overall poor work culture. Most of these stem from a dairy’s lack of communicating goals, both for the dairy and employees. This fosters a climate of unpredictable results.

Honing management skills

Dairy managers need more than their years of experience or new technologies to increase dairy efficiencies and profitability. Dairy managers need management training to help them develop:

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  • Leadership skills that emphasize employee communication and workflow management
  • Workplace cultures that lead to high-performing teams
  • Time-management techniques, delegation and goal-setting
  • Performance management and coaching

Noticeable results from developing management skills

Dairy owners and managers from across the country who participated in dairy management training programs said management training helped boost managers’ confidence, employee performance and overall operation success.

The positive effects of putting people first included increased engagement, improved morale, delegation of job responsibilities, empowerment and accountability. Past dairy management training program participants reported a 55 percent improvement in job performance.

In the case of the California dairy highlighted in this article, smart investments in management training and workplace culture led to:

  • Managers better able to lead teams and more team engagement
  • Improved overall team effectiveness in carrying out processes within their system
  • Increased ability to implement new standard operating procedures

These improvements also resulted in noticeable milk quality improvements:

  • Reduced somatic cell counts
  • Decreased clinical mastitis cases by 25 percent
  • Increased milk production and quality
  • Projected mastitis cost savings of $236,220

Take-aways

This California case study illustrates how such investments in human resources can ultimately help dairies optimize dairy wellness, which can lead to healthier businesses, healthier cows and more effective use of animal health inputs.

The economic impacts of mastitis stem from these main factors: increased costs from clinical mastitis, along with the labor and time to process sick animals, and reduced revenues from lower milk production, increased milk discard and earlier culling.

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For this dairy, the projected savings of more than $236,000 per year from reduced clinical mastitis incidence only (not including other factors) helped managers grasp the potential value of their employee-training efforts.

While it is difficult to quantify the exact financial impacts of the management training or treatment protocol changes, the dairy owner and manager, who both are seasoned industry experts, believe the training significantly contributed to their success.

Managers and employees play a key role in a dairy’s overall success. From my experiences working with dairies, I’ve learned substantial, positive change comes from establishing sound procedures and having a team dedicated to ensuring they are carried out properly. Visit the Zoetis Dairy Wellness website to learn more about training and managing your workforce. PD

References omitted due to spacebut are available upon request. Click here to email an editor.

jorge estrada

Jorge Estrada
PeopleFirst Organizational Development Consultant
Executive Coach
Zoetis

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