To Manage The Little Things In Dairy Farming

On December 21, 2019

To Manage The Little Things In Dairy Farming

On dairies like many other businesses there are an abundance of day-to-day activities. Unlike other businesses, dairy farms are a 7 day a week, 24 hour a day, 365 day a year operation. The major tasks like feeding, milking, scraping, and youngstock care take priority daily. Major project changes like building a new barn or upgrading the parlor take time for planning and execution in addition to the day-to-day. So, it is not surprising that the “little things” can get short changed from a time to time. Becoming more aware of and focusing some time on the “little things” can have a big impact on productivity and profitability says Extension Dairy Specialist Lisa Holden.

One “little thing” to consider is feed push-ups. Cows eat more when fresh feed is available, after they return from milking and when feed is pushed up within reach. If feedbunks are overcrowded, the more timid animals may wait to eat, often when the feed has already formed that ridge from the more dominant cows eating, resulting in lower dry matter intake and lower production. The timing of feed push-ups may be just as important, if not more important than how many get done in a day. Scheduling work around the cows’ needs may be more effective. Increasing dry matter intake by one pound per cow per day can increase milk yield by about two pounds. So, if one pound of dry matter costs $0.12 and a pound of milk is $0.18 then there is a three-found return on getting that one extra pound of intake. Of course, this varies by stage of lactation, current ration, etc. — but on average this is a pretty good return on investment.

One of those other “little things” to consider is timing. Whether it is consistent feed drop times or timing of synchronization programs and breeding, when things happen matters to the final results. How compliant are workers to the timing of tasks in the operation and is this “little thing” costing big dollars? Research presented by Dr. Katy Proudfoot at the 2019 Penn State Nutrition Conference showed that feed delays on alternate days caused increase stress in animals. Inaccurate timing of synchronization programs with breeding times can decrease conception rates and therefore pregnancy rates. Depending on the herd, this can be a big dollar impact. Spending time, rather than any more money and paying attention to the timing of tasks and adjusting when necessary can also result in a positive return on investment.

One last “little thing” is simply courtesy. Taking time to thank an employee for a job well done or to recognize effort for improvement when someone is continuing to struggle with a task can go a long way in impacting morale and productivity. When stressed – whether from a simple bad day or pressures from outside the farm, we often react more abruptly and omit those two important words that we teach our children – “please” and “thank you.” Again, those little things can make that big difference.

While the day to day of operating a dairy can be intense at times, don’t overlook the impact that those many, many “little things” that may be neglected can have. Take time to make a list of “little things” for your dairy. Or better yet, enlist your trusted advisors to help with creating that list. Then develop a plan for monitoring how well those little things are getting done. If there is a gap between what is happening and what you would like to happen, then schedule time each week or each month to start narrowing those gaps by not losing sight of the “little things.” Take them one at a time and remember to continue to monitor to maintain your progress. After all, we have heard so many times that it’s the little things that make the biggest difference.

To Reflect On Our Lifestyle Decisions 

This time of the year it is especially important that we take time to count our blessings. For some this year has been a tough one with many challenges while for others it has been a good year. Some may have suffered setbacks in their health. In spite of this, we all can find something for which to be thankful. It is especially important for our children to see us model gratitude for the good things we have even in hard times. 

All of us can find some needy folks in our communities who have it tougher than us. Make it a family project to get involved in helping others. If you have food in a refrigerator, clothes in your closet, a roof over your head and a bed to sleep in, you are wealthier than 75% of the world’s population. 

While farms are great places to raise a family, they are also very demanding and if we are not careful the workload can prevent us from developing the family life we desire. Take time to evaluate your life and make sure things are in a healthy balance. Make a special effort to slow down and make some Christmas memories with your family this year.

Quote Of The Week: “Nancy and I are very happy to send our warmest greetings and best wishes to all those who are celebrating Christmas. We join with Americans everywhere in recognizing the sense of renewed hope and comfort this joyous season brings to our nation and the world. For, more than just a day, Christmas is a state of mind. It is found throughout the year whenever faith overcomes doubt, hope conquers despair, and love triumphs over hate. It is present when men of any creed bring love and understanding to the hearts of their fellow man. 

The feeling is seen in the wondrous faces of children and in the hopeful eyes of the aged. It overflows the hearts of cheerful givers and the souls of the caring. Let us resolve to honor this spirit of Christmas and strive to keep it throughout the year.” President Ronald Reagan Christmas Message To The Nation December 24, 1981