Every farmer hopes for a successful cow mating season, but don't just leave things to chance.  You can maximise your success rate by taking proactive measures now which may prevent or minimise mistakes - mistakes which could lead to injury, time off work or equipment damage, and ultimately affect your profits.

When it comes to your farm team, some things to consider are:

  1. Is your team refreshed, rested and ready to go?  You want your team to be sharp and focused, however if they have been working long hours with little break, chances are their reflexes and judgement will be impaired.  Ensure your team are reaping the benefits of regular time off so that they can fully recharge. Remember, tired people make mistakes!
  2. Is your team fully trained?  Could they use a refresher?  It is easy to assume that everyone is as knowledgeable as you, however it is worth finding out if this is actually the case.  A new or inexperienced farm worker may benefit from some additional hands-on training, and experienced workers could benefit from a refresher course to sharpen their skills.  Assess individual skill levels in areas like knowledge about behaviours of a cow in season, safe handling of bulls (see below) and correct tail paint applications, and address any shortcomings with on-farm training or a workshop.
  3. Is your team on the same page as you?  Again, don't assume everyone knows what your expectations are or what you are trying to achieve this mating season. Great communication is key to ensuring that every employee knows his or her role, and why it is important that this time of year is managed effectively.  Not everyone will know, for example, that the ramification of a low six-week in-calf rate could be a more drawn-out calving next year.  Engage with your employees to help them see the big picture.

It's no bull!  Every year there are farm-related injuries due to improper safety around bulls!

To ensure you or one of your workers doesn't become a statistic it is worth addressing the issue of bull safety by having a safety briefing with your team.  Some points to discuss are:

  • Be aware of your position in relation to the bull and have an exit strategy.  Do not corner a bull, and don't allow yourself to get cornered by a bull
  • Check fences and gates of bull paddocks and use a ute or tractor in the paddock whenever possible
  • Establish an emergency plan and make sure everyone knows the drill
  • Don't allow inexperienced staff to handle bulls.  Have workers demonstrate their ability to read the signs of bull behaviour before allowing them contact

Information credits:
Rose McVeagh, DairyNZ people management specialist
Fonterra FarmSource September 2016 edition