“If it did work, do we know why?”
Those were questions posed by William Prokop, who serves as the director of operations at Cornell’s University Ruminant Center.
In troubleshooting nutritional issues, Prokop shared that managerial issues routinely cause the biggest problems. Feeding problems can also be linked to quantitative mistakes or limitations of modeling, but “Nine times out of 10 the managerial issues are the ones causing the problems,” Prokop shared at the Penn State Dairy Cattle Nutrition Workshop.
Specifically, he shared that nutritional technology is powerful, but it must be paired with strong employee and owner attention to detail.
“Technology works best when it is paired with best management practices that improve consistency,” he told the room of nutrition specialists. “It all has to do with reducing variation.”
That means clearly defining a good ration, measuring data on ingredients, and analyzing relevant data to find a combination that meets the cows’ requirements. It must continue into implementing the ration as outlined and evaluating it to verify that it is doing what it is intended to.
When training employees, Prokop recommended using a system that is understandable and repeatable. Even more importantly, a good feeding program requires leadership that instills pride in the feeders to do their best each day.
“Our ultimate goal is to reduce variation. Reinforce it through demonstration and education to create awareness and pride,” Prokop said.