Besides my dairy consulting practice, I also own a retail ice cream business. Most of our employees are high school and college kids—some of our greatest assets. But if you think about it, unsupervised, it’s like handing a 17-year-old keys to a Lamborghini.
Your feeders have much more responsibility than employees at an ice cream shop. They handle potentially 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, this is easier with state-of-the-art feed software programs, which measure loading and unloading accuracy and speed for each feeder, amount of time each load was mixed and the time of day each load was fed for each pen by each feeder. Deviations to protocol are recorded in reports and graphs for easy interpretation.
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 during a week period on a 600-cow dairy. If the premix cost $500 per ton and it is supposed to be fed at 5 lb. per cow, a 10% deviation cost the dairy $525 per week or $27,000 a year. That’s just one ingredient.
But inconsistencies in amounts, mixing times and feeding times 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.
Training and education should be a continuousprocess, not just a crash course when employees are hired. Regular monitoring of feeding protocols using feed management software is a priceless investment, especially on larger dairies. The impact on the dairy’s bottom line is obvious.
Numerous studies show that good employees are motivated by respect, interesting work and recognition for good work. Ironically, money is rarely at the top of the list. Involve your feeders in the business by measuring their importance and contributions.