Even though livestock producers have come a long way in terms of animal care, there is still room for improvement. Emily Yeiser-Stepp, senior director with the National Dairy National Farmers Advocating for Responsible Management (FARM) Program, offers three steps toward continuous improvement.
1. Adopt new practices. Producers can’t rest on the we’ve-done-it-this-way-for-30-years mentality, Yeiser-Stepp says.
“We have to acknowledge that best management practices, and the research around healthcare and comfort is changing and it’s changing rather rapidly,” she says.
2. Engage with experts. Utilize the people who walk on your farm every day, particularly trusted advisors. Surround yourself with people who are going to potentially tell you things you don’t want to hear but you know are best for your animals and your business in the long run, Yeiser-Stepp says.
3. Engage your workforce. Livestock producers put one of their largest business assets into the hands of the people that are doing day to day work with the animals. Admittedly, values among employees may be different.
“Invest in the ‘why’,” she advises. “If you don’t give people a ‘why’ and identify what makes them tick the likelihood that they are going to execute things the way you want them to is probably rather unlikely,” she adds.
Don’t skip solid protocols, but give employees ownership of the animal care culture on your farm.
“Even if protocols are being followed but the results aren’t there, don’t be afraid to listen to your employees when they’ve discovered a better way to do things,” she says. “You have to acknowledge that you’ve hired good people with good ideas and their input can lead to big strides in the right direction.”