Volatile employer/employee relationships and poor working conditions would negatively impact morale, productivity, & job performance in any workplace. In a recent issue of Progressive Dairyman, Chuck Schwartau reports that negative handling techniques may have similar effects on a dairy’s most important employees – the cows.
Several studies have investigated the influence handling techniques have on cow behavior, health, and productivity. Although there have not been any concrete correlations made, studies suggest that aggressive (negative) handling may very well decrease productivity and breeding response.
When hiring new “human employees,” it is important to evaluate their attitudes toward animals and to determine why they are interested in working on a dairy farm. Studies found that employees who implemented negative handling techniques were less interested in livestock and/or had an aversion to animals. Those that do care about cows would likely be more observant of health issues or variances in milk production within the herd.
Assuming that cows can sense rough handlers, negative handling could affect how cows enter the parlor, respond to milking preparation, and how quickly they let down their milk. To help improve handling techniques, Schwartau suggests developing an employee training program with an emphasis on how their interactions with the cows can affect productivity and the dairy’s bottom line.
The National Milk Harvesting Centre of Victoria, Australia suggests the following 7 strategies for creating a calmer atmosphere that aids in cow cooperation and encourages milk letdown:
“You want your girls to be comfortable. The better care you take of them, the better they take of you. Keeping fresh bedding under them every day gives them more comfort. It’s a no-brainer – after our first Patz chopper, we’ll never go back to another brand again.”