Animal Health & Nutrition
Rick Lundquist is an independent nutrition and management consultant based in Duluth, Minn. He provides livestock production advice.
Keep Feeders Informed, Involved, Motivated
Aug 28, 2014
They handle millions of dollars in feed, equipment and cattle. Proper training and protocols are imperative.
By Rick Lundquist
Besides my dairy consulting practice, I’m also in the retail ice cream business. Most of our employees are high school and college kids. They are one of our greatest assets.
They can also make or break this business. But if you think about it, unsupervised, it’s like handing a 17-year-old the keys to a Lamborghini.
Your feeders have much more responsibility than an ice cream shop.
Your feeders potentially handle millions of dollars worth of feed, operate equipment worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and influence the health and production of millions of dollars worth of cattle.
Proper training and protocols are imperative. So is measuring job performance. Fortunately, the metrics have been made easier with state-of-the- art feed software programs.
Feed software programs now allow managers and feeders to monitor efficiency and accuracy and provide instant accountability. They measure loading and unloading accuracy and speed for each feeder. They record the amount of time each load was mixed and the time of day each load was fed for each pen and by each feeder. Deviations to protocol are recorded in reports and graphs for easy interpretation.
Feed management software can and should be used as an educational tool for employees – not a policing tool. If you need to police an employee, you probably don’t need that employee on the dairy.
Regular feeder meetings to discuss deviations to feeding protocol are an invaluable tool to increase feeder performance and work satisfaction. Putting a dollar value on deviations really hits home.
Let’s say that a particular feeder was 10% over on a protein/mineral premix over a week period on a 600-cow dairy. If that premix cost’s $500/ton and is supposed to be fed at 5 lb./cow, a 10% deviation cost the dairy $525/week or $27,000/year. That’s just one ingredient.
But inconsistencies in amounts, mixing times and feeding times also contribute to milk loss and health issues. This is by far the most expensive consequence of deviations from protocol. Your nutritionist and veterinarian can help put a dollar value on how these deviations affect production and health. They should be present at feeder meetings.
Feed software helps you measure shrink and inventory control. Your feeder can minimize shrink by pushing spilled feed back in the bin, minimizing wind loss and good silage face management. Again, putting a dollar amount on shrink is an excellent educational tool.
Training and education should be a continuous process, not a crash course when employees are hired. Regular monitoring of feeding protocols using feed management software is an invaluable aid, especially on larger dairies. The impact on the dairy’s bottom line is obvious.
Numerous studies and surveys show that good employees – the ones you want – are motivated by respect, interesting work and recognition for good work.
Ironically, money is rarely at the top of the list for overall job satisfaction. Involve your feeders in the business by measuring their importance and contributions.