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Dairy Labor Management: The Hamburger Dilemma

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Recently, my wife asked me to cook some hamburgers on the grill. However, she specified that she wanted them juicy… and not pink.

Now, I have cooked thousands of hamburgers in my lifetime—but it seems that I haven’t perfected one that she likes. This triggered some thoughts about what we ask personnel on dairies to do.

We ask them to milk, feed, care for, and breed animals… using our protocols to perfection.

First, humans are not perfect. And second, neither are the protocols.

Protocol Success

Protocols cannot be perfect because they are usually written for a specific condition or situation that can change.

In my hamburger dilemma, I know the last time I had cooked a hamburger, the meat had not been completely thawed… I was set up for failure. There was no way the meat could cook evenly.

Likewise, on our farms do we set up personnel for failure?

For instance, we demand perfect preparation for milking the cows. Yet do we fail to give our personnel the gear or training to do it properly?

In feeding, are the knives or stops in the feed box worn out?

The Process

Rather than expecting perfection from our protocols, should we allow for the fact that our protocols need to be evaluated… and perhaps change? Perhaps the protocol should be put through a process.

  • Start the protocol with a goal in mind.
  • Evaluate the success of the protocol over a period of time.
  • Does it need to be adjusted? Or was the goal consistently met? What are the challenges?
  • Apply the new knowledge to the protocol and start the process again.

Back to my hamburger dilemma… starting with thawed meat is at least one thing I can do to succeed next time!

Read more about the process...

Willingness is the Key

The key for me here is that I really want to achieve that perfect burger for her.

For our personnel, I think that their willingness to try is the key. If we have people that are willing to try, what happens when they get it wrong? Even more so, what happens to that willingness if they’ve gotten it wrong a few times?

Read about teachable moments...

How do you make sure your personnel will be successful?

This post is part 7 of an 8-part series on Dairy Labor Management.
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