Driving Profitability Tip 6: Train Employees on Great Animal Husbandry to Drive Profit

Michael Lormore, DVM, MS, MBA Director, U.S. Dairy Technical Services Zoetis

Excellent animal husbandry skills have a tremendous impact on animal health and well-being, but a recent study discovered just how significant that impact can be. Overall animal husbandry is a critical component of generating higher net farm income — $138 more per cow per year, or 7 more pounds of milk per cow per day, the study found.1

 

 

This recent study Zoetis conducted with Compeer Financial quantified the value of good animal husbandry practices on lifetime net farm income. Good overall animal husbandry generally means lower death rates, which can be used as a metric to measure profitability. The analysis of 11 years of herd data from 489 year-end financial and production-record summaries found that lowering death rates is one of the top six factors driving profitability on dairies. The difference in profit of $138 per cow per year, or 7 pounds of milk per cow per day, was found when the top one-third of herds in this study were compared with the bottom one-third of herds.1,* More details about this comparison can be found in the accompanying graphic.

To improve animal husbandry and increase net farm income, work on building a well-trained, qualified and invested workforce. And because most agree that employees can be more complicated to manage than cows, here’s what we recommend:

  • Hire the right people.
    The people you hire, no matter how qualified, can take your dairy — and death rates — in the wrong direction if their goals and values differ from the operation’s. Prevent that from happening by taking time to evaluate the goals of your operation and your employees. Interview your current employees to help you make better hiring decisions. Ask your current employees these questions.
  • Train your workforce on milk quality.We see higher death rates in herds that have elevated somatic cell counts (SCC) — demonstrating both are linked to overall animal husbandry practices.Training on other milk quality practices before, during and after milking can help improve milk quality and animal well-being. For example, employees are trained to be on the lookout for physical mastitis symptoms, but they should also be looking for evidence of subclinical mastitis infections.
  • Foster teamwork. A manager who is undertrained and disengaged can contribute to disengaged employees and increased employee turnover. A highly engaged team is a more capable team. This team is more proficient at getting cows pregnant quickly and efficiently. They are invested in getting high volumes of milk harvested from cows. And they are more capable of limiting involuntary culling and death losses.Simple changes in people management can create a higher level of engagement from employees, improve team performance and increase dairy profitability.

Minimizing death rates through employees with good animal husbandry skills is a necessary component to generating net farm income. Check out this video for more information on how minimizing death loss can help you maximize profits like the top dairies in this study.

Editor’s note: This is the final article in a series of Dairy Financial Driver Profitability Quick Tips. Information is based on work by Zoetis and Compeer Financial to analyze 11 years of herd data from 489 year-end financial and production-record summaries to identify key drivers of net farm income. This article first appeared in the Zoetis Dairy Wellness Quick Tips Newsletter of June 25, 2019.

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