Dairy herd management

The dictionary defines management as "the act or art of managing: the conducting or supervising of something (as a business)". As we can see, this definition is relatively broad and applicable to most management situations.

Management is a comprehensive activity, involving the combination and co-ordination of human, physical and financial resources in a way which produces a commodity or a service which is both wanted and can be offered at a price which will be paid, while making the working environment for those involved agreeable and acceptable.” 

The management of a dairy farm, or any other small business, differs in some respects from managing a large corporation. In contrast to the large firm, the dairy farmer usually sets his/her own goals, provides the management of the business and performs all or part of the labour. This makes it difficult to separate the management from the labour. Both of these tasks may also be performed at the same time. For example, the planning of today.s actions may take place while milking the cows. When doing so, there is always a risk that the immediate need of labour will place the management in a secondary role, with management decisions postponed and delayed. The recommendation is therefore to dedicate some time, on a regularly basis, for “pure” management. 

All business management, regardless of the size of the firm, involves decision making and supervising. A good manager is usually characterised by making good decisions. All decisions made by a manager might not be satisfactory, but the more decisions that are made in an informed manner, the more likely we are to produce a positive outcome. 

But how do we make good decisions and how do we know that the effect was the desired one? 

Decision making can be described as a continuous process. As illustrated in figure 1, this process starts with monitoring. By measuring key parameters and comparing these with kept records, the observation of a possible problem will be facilitated. 

When the problem is observed and understood, the different options to solve the problem have to be evaluated. This includes an estimation of the effects for each option and a comparison with the individual goals. The options might already be given (e.g. the choice to use medication or not) but it can be more complex than so (e.g. the choice of feeding strategy). When the choice is made and implemented, the effects have to be monitored and controlled, so that we make sure the set goals are met. If not, you may have to go through the process again until a satisfying outcome is produced.

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Efficient dairy herd management

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