1. Good animal sense/nurturing: Having sensitivity to animals and the environment is probably the most important ability this person should have. If you are looking from within your operation for a candidate, look for people who are good around the cows — those who can handle cows in a calm and efficient way and are the best at identifying health issues with the cows.
2. Consistent and on time every day: This is critical, since following routines and doing things the same way and at the same time every day is the key driver of any successful program at the dairy.
3. Organized, methodical and detail-oriented: This person will have to organize maintenance schedules, de-horning schedules, weaning schedules, vaccination protocols, treatment protocols, etc. Also, he or she will have to closely monitor each individual calf from different groups, monitor computer reports and more.
4. Ability to read and write (preferably in both English and Spanish): This person will not only have to keep treatment and calf care reports up to date but also read protocols, labels and more.
5. Ability to follow protocols and directions: Once the person goes through the training and understands the “whys” of the different jobs and protocols that he or she needs to follow, directions need to be followed to the “T” in order to prevent problems from occurring by ensuring that proper procedures are always followed.
6. Good communicator: Very little gets accomplished as it should when the lines of communication get crossed. You as a manager can help improve this by establishing good communication processes, like frequent meetings and reports, that help improve communication.
7. Patient and calm, yet efficient during stressful situations: When animals don’t cooperate — say, moving around when they need to stand still on a scale — it can be frustrating. The calf manager must stay calm at all times while still finding an efficient way to get the job done without causing stress to the animals.
8. Cleanliness: Before hiring the person, look at how he or she presents himself. If the person is already working at your dairy, is he or she always dirty (milking with dirty gloves and arms and never paying attention to this)? Does the person maintain their working area to keep it clean and tidy? How’s their locker? This is absolutely crucial when it comes to calf care and feeding. The most common problem I see during disease outbreaks in dairies is that proper cleaning protocols were not followed at all times.
9. Ability to lift heavy bags and animals (50-100# weight): Some physical abilities will be required for the job. Don’t hire someone who constantly needs help to lift bags or work with the animals because they can’t do it themselves.
10. Ability to measure ingredients and liquids and do basic math: This is important when mixing milk, measuring the right treatment dose, weighing calves, calculating growth rates, etc.
Next time we will discuss which skills are needed in a group-housed calving system manager.
Felix Soriano is a labor management/human resource consultant with APN Consulting LLC, Warrington, Pa. Contact him via phone: 215-738-9130, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.apndairy.com.