Having bored or dispassionate employees can kill a business. Yet, how can you quickly energize your calf maternity employees? Sometimes it is as simple as giving them the tools to do their job right.
1. Feel Successful with Clear and Consistent Calf Maternity Protocols
Start by making your Calf Maternity employees feel successful. This is easily done by creating protocols that are reliable and easily repeatable. It allows the employee to know whether or not he or she did a good job. Knowing what the expectations and how to fulfill them will lead to increased satisfaction on the job.
Start with a simple draft, learn what works and where the weak links are, you’ll be able to adjust it as you go. Print the protocols out and post them in the right area. For example, a colostrum testing protocol should be where you milk fresh cows.
If you have employees who don’t have a good understanding of English, translate the directions into their native language. Use your vendors as a resource and ask them to provide translated equipment instructions and user guides.
Keep your protocols as uniform as possible. A great example is the administration of colostrum to heifers and bulls. A good working protocol should include the same steps of testing, labeling, pasteurizing, storing, warming up, and feeding for both heifer and bull calves. The only difference is that the heifer calves receive the high-quality colostrum, while the bull calves receive the lower-quality colostrum. The rest of the handling is the same.
An example of a protocol prone to having issues is saying that bull colostrum (lower-quality) will not be pasteurized. This example offers too many possibilities for mistakes. Employees can get confused about which colostrum should be pasteurized and pasteurize the bull-quality instead of the heifer-quality, the storage container may get mislabeled, the correctly unpasteurized bull-quality can be accidentally fed to a heifer, and if you have a streak of lower-quality colostrum, you will run out of pasteurized colostrum that could be used for heifers.
Your protocols should be built around the lowest denominator, limiting the number of steps that offer opportunity for a mistake. For instance, in the first example, where feeding lower-quality to a heifer will have limited impact because the colostrum has been treated properly up to that point.
Your calf maternity employees will pay more attention to your protocol posters if you use bright colors and add pictures or drawings. Placing a photo of the person in charge of the area will make it more personal and serve two purposes. One, it will give the leader the recognition they deserve, and two, it will highlight their responsibility for keeping the area working smoothly.
2. Advance Your Calf Maternity Employees with Education and Training
Frequently training your calf maternity employees is key to successful implementation. Teaching adults is different than teaching children. Adults need to understand why you are asking them to do things in order to remember.
Successful calf maternity employee training should include these three components:
- Explain how to tell if the job is being done correctly and the consequences of doing it the wrong. Don’t be afraid of going into details and let your calf maternity employees ask questions about why to do it and how to do it. For example, when tube feeding a calf, go slow; tip the nose below the ears; this helps the tube feeder trigger the swallowing reflex and allows the calf to swallow the tube feeder. The tube feeder is correctly placed if you can feel the tip through the esophagus in the neck. The calf’s bellering is a good sign.
- Let everyone observe the trainer perform the desired tasks. Show them what slow and fast means. Example: Show your employees where to feel for the tip of the tube feeder and explain that if you can’t feel the tube feeder, it is most likely in the trachea, which leads directly into the lungs and would kill the calf.
- Allow each maternity worker the time to practice while being observed by the trainer. This way they can each receive feedback in a safe learning environment. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Ensure that each maternity employee gets a chance to practice the entire procedure.
Have an interpreter at a training given to non-English speakers, but keep in mind that often you are not only bridging a language gap but a cultural gap. Unlike in the United States, in other cultures asking clarifying questions may be viewed as a show of weakness and stupidity. With that in mind, make sure you ask your employees questions to verify they have a good understanding of the concepts and protocols presented.
3. Encourage and Support Your Calf Maternity Employees
Implementing a new protocol should be about encouragement, not enforcement. Make “coach and correct” your new mantra for calf maternity employee management. Once you have completed your training, and your employees understand why and how to do things, spend some time observing them implement the new protocols. We all know it isn’t easy to do new things, so give them a chance to learn the new ways the right way. You’ll achieve better results by coaching when you see something wrong instead of being angry they didn’t get it right the first time. Be open to questions about why the protocols have changed and ready with an explanation for how it benefits the animals and the employee.
Equip your calf maternity employees with the right tools. If you are adhering to industry standards and asking your employees to always feed colostrum at 102ºF and thaw it in water at or below 113ºF, make sure you also have a thermometer available in the thawing location. But even the best-meant protocols can fail because of our human nature and the lack of circumstance control; that’s when technology can be helpful. An employee that starts warming up colostrum but is called away to help someone else may not be able to monitor the thawing process. Consequently, the colostrum may have to be warmed up several times – extending the time period when bacterial growth occurs. If the calf is born half-an-hour before the end of the shift, the employee is likely to warm the colostrum in very hot water in order to speed up the process, denaturing the immunity (immunoglobulins). In a case like this, getting a colostrum thawing unit that has built-in temperature sensors is just the right answer. The machine protects the colostrum and helps your calf maternity employees to successfully implement protocols.
The number one employee complaint is the lack of clarity in communication. If you make sure your protocols are in line with your values and your training, supported by your coaching and the right tools, you will have a successful team of calf maternity employees.
In conclusion, your animals our only as successful as those who take care of them. If the maternity employees on your dairy feel successful, they will be more patient and take better care of the animals they look after.
Your comments and questions are always welcomed, let us know what you think, how do you implement calf protocols on your dairy, or what other topics you’d like us to address next.
President and Owner of Golden Calf Company