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Dairy Labor Management: Perception Versus Reality

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One of the hardest obstacles to overcome when changing the labor environment on a dairy is people’s perceptions. Here is an example using a phone call I received this week.

A herdsman called and said he wanted to use a Calcium Bolus in the first lactation heifers this year. When I ask why, he indicated he thought they freshened better when he used them last year.

I asked if he had any data supporting his idea… His answer was no, but he felt that they just did better.

This is a sticky situation for a veterinarian. At this point, most will give in; it is easier than losing a client. However, in this case… I had the data to show that it didn’t change the outcomes.

The Importance of Proving Your Outcomes

Often in this kind of situation, if I don’t have any personal research to draw on, I will use research data from peer reviewed journals to answer the question. There is usually a push-back response on research data… followed by the comment, “That is not my farm.”

I love to answer that question! My favorite approach is to do an on-farm research trial. I have done hundreds of these. They can range from simple to complex. In the above example, here is a simple trial:

  • This year give a Calcium Bolus to all even-numbered heifers.
  • Then, Use the odd-numbered heifers as the control.

I am firm about the use of controls. Without controls you are back to personal perception.

One Final Thought

As a consultant I see animals in multiple situations and in multiple locations. What happens on some dairies is that the abnormal becomes the normal, because “This is the way it works at our dairy.”

Cows are very forgiving animals. In order for a dairy to achieve its potential… we humans have to get out of the way of normal behavior.

This post is part 3 of a 8 part series on Dairy Management Labor.
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