Friday, 15 May 2020
How do you keep a team motivated throughout the grazing season? By recognising that grazing management is actually an important part of the routine of feeding cows, not just an extra job or done by someone on a dog walk. It’s the role of the decision-maker.
Housing cows in winter changes the perspective of grazed grass in Britain, believes Kiwi Teaghan Tayler, currently managing a 300-cow herd with her husband in Shropshire, as well as heading the Welsh team of AHDB Knowledge Exchange Managers. “Here, there is a big thing about turnout. In New Zealand, we don’t house. We take cows off a crop and start measuring grass a month before grazing it, so it’s not seen as a grazing season, but a routine job of feeding cows,” she explains.
Communicating this message to staff is crucial – and not only at turnout. Teaghan thinks grassland management should be a key topic at team meetings. “Don’t just tell them at the start of the season. Make sure it’s always a topic to be reviewed at every staff meeting. Although the grazing season isn’t as busy as calving, it does stretch over a longer time period and that’s why it’s important to change the team’s perspective about grazing management. It’s an important job and no different to TMR feeding,” she says.
Having clear objectives is part of motivating people. They need to know what they are working towards, get recognition for a job well done and have responsibility, adds Teaghan. This means teaching staff key grazing concepts, from pre-grazing covers to the importance of residuals and all of the measuring, number crunching and allocating that happens in between. Key points to cover in regular meetings include challenging the team about whether you are hitting residuals and getting expected growth rates.
“Explain why, and explain how, dropping just 1.0 MJ/ME/kg DM from grazing poor-quality pasture can affect milk yield. It really gets the farm team thinking. Go back to the principles of how a rye-grass plant grows, how we measure and why; how to decide when to graze a paddock, when to skip it and when to cut it. If one person is responsible for the measuring, for instance, take the whole team with you.”
It’s also a good idea to make sure that staff have visible, written protocols for routine jobs and all of the right tools needed to set up breaks, repair fencing, or fix leaky troughs to minimise downtime. Make life easy by supplying a fence tester and having the right standards to keep cows in a break, adds Teaghan. “Have reels that actually work, not ones where wires have been melted by the quad exhaust. Nail a spray can to every third gateway for marking cows that need checking for lameness in the parlour.”