Minimizing death rates is one of the top ways to maximize dairy profits, according to a recent financial analysis.1 Lower death rates are generally an indicator of good animal husbandry skills. And overall animal husbandry skills are in the hands of your employees.
The true cost of death loss
The value of reducing death rates can be significant — $138 per cow per year, or 7 pounds of milk per cow per day.1,* That’s among the findings from a field study by Zoetis and Compeer Financial that analyzed 11 years of herd data from 489 year-end financial and production-record summaries.
Minimizing losses starts with your people
All data in this study point to death rates and net farm income being positively influenced by a well-trained, qualified and invested workforce. It’s true that your people are your greatest asset. They also can be your greatest liability if not properly led, trained or, rather, inspired.
Because managing employees can be one of the most complicated challenges on a dairy, here are a few places to start when looking to improve animal husbandry and minimize death rates:
- 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 those of the operation. Prevent that by taking time to evaluate the goals of your operation and your employees. Interview your employees to help you make better hiring decisions. Ask them these questions.
- Train your workforce on milk quality. The study shows elevated 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 look for physical mastitis symptoms, but they should also look for evidence of subclinical mastitis infections.
- Foster teamwork. A manager who is undertrained and disengaged can contribute to disengaged employees and turnover. A highly engaged team is a more capable team. This team is more capable of getting cows pregnant quickly and efficiently. They are invested in getting high volumes of milk harvested from cows on a regular basis. And they care more about limiting involuntary culling and death losses. Simple changes in people management can create higher employee engagement, improve team performance and increase dairy profitability.
Learn more here about death rates and other Dairy Financial Drivers impacting net herd income.