Sometimes a successful dairy or beef business is as much about managing people as it is your herd. That applies to your full-time staff of course. But it also applies to the specialists you bring onto your farm that you can use. Here are some tips on getting more value when you call in the experts.
Farming is tough work. And it’s due to get tougher thanks to the shortfall in people entering the industry. Government figures estimate that 60,000 new entrants will be needed in UK agriculture in the next 10 years. That coupled with looming Brexit uncertainty means human resources are as pressing a concern as your herd’s health.
Leaning on the expertise and knowledge of agricultural specialists from external organisations and businesses can help you to optimise your farming business and work more efficiently. It’s vital that you get as much value from your specialists as possible. Here are some tips.
1. GET EVERYTHING YOU NEED FROM THE EXPERTS
Before engaging a consultant or specialist, you need to have a clear idea of what you want from them. You may have identified a specific problem you are looking to overcome or a recurring issue that you don’t know how to solve. But whilst they are on farm, are their expertise needed elsewhere? Ensure you are considering all the possible issues they could help you address and prepare a list of questions or concerns, before they arrive.
You should also ask your staff, they are the biggest asset on your farm so ask them for their input. They see the nuts and bolts of your dairy or beef farming business on a daily basis. They may have bright ideas that you haven’t thought of. They may see issues that you are less likely to be aware off.
2. PREPARE IN ADVANCE
Meetings can be incredibly effective at wasting time - and as a farmer, time is a precious resource. It is likely however that engaging a specialist will necessitate at least one or two meetings. You can make the most of them (and guard against wasting time) by preparing in advance, and writing a list of points you’d like to address and keeping it to hand for your meeting. Doing this a day or two before the meeting or as and when you are working on the farm and you notice issues or concerns, using a voice note on your phone is ideal.
Finally, as well as setting a start time for the meeting, set an end time too and stick to it.
3. CONSULT YOUR TEAM
You’ve spent time and money hiring a team of experienced and trustworthy professionals to help you on your farm. So, let them! Ensure that you speak with your staff before the arrival of the specialist, because they could provide valuable input and may be aware of issues on the farm that you are yet to encounter.
Giving them the responsibility, not only takes work off your plate, but it motivates your staff and makes them feel like a valued member of your team.
4. BE MINDFUL OF NOW BUT DON’T FORGET TO LOOK AHEAD
When talking with experts, especially nutritional experts, with growing livestock, it’s best to cover as much ground as possible in one hit. So, don’t just talk about your current needs and ambitions. Set an actionable roadmap for the year ahead, season by season, for example how to grow the best heifers. Take a look at our heifer roadmap to help you get started.
5. QUESTION VETS ABOUT LOCAL HEALTH RISKS
The nature of disease is such that you cannot think about ‘your farm only’ when you are trying to control the risks. Ask your veterinary expert about the diseases they have been treating locally and how to prevent them occurring on your farm, prevention is always better than a cure.
6. GET CLARITY FROM CALF SPECIALISTS
When calf specialists from your feed or machinery merchants come to your farm, you need take advantage of their wealth of experience and wisdom when it comes to raising happy and healthy calves.
When meeting, start where you left off last time. Walk through your premises and talk about the things you have implemented since the previous meeting, and whether they are working.
Do your research in advance so you understand the products that are available to you. And find out exactly how their product will benefit your business, your calves and your bottom line. Finally remember that it’s often a false economy to focus only on price. As price descends, quality tends to do the same. Remember: you get what you pay for.
OVER TO YOU...
Clarity and openness are paramount when it comes to getting the best value from your specialists. Follow the tips above and you will be well on your way.
Published on: 21 August 2019
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