Farmers have a lot of people coming over at their farm: vets, feed advisors, barn designers, fertility experts, material suppliers. Which one of them can help farmers go from 2,5 lactations average to 5 lactations? How do we go from 50% subclinical milk fever, 50% laminitis and 26% mastitis to barely any illness? Here are 5 characteristics that define a great farm advisor. The first characteristic is in your heart. The rest can be taught!
1. They have the best interest of the farmer and the cows at heart
For advisors it is not always their first priority to focus on animal welfare. For feed advisors it might be more attractive to sell more expensive feed than to focus on more simple solutions in housing and management. Suppliers might care more about selling mats than that they care if that’s best for the cows. Even vets earn money by selling medicine. Farmers deserve an advisor who challenges them and helps them improve, rather than to always go for the cheapest option. I can promise you the costs will be earned back in longevity, health and working pleasure:
- Every sick cow costs € 300 average. And a lot of trouble.
- Every lactation you lose, needs to be compensated with new young stock. In 2016 the average costs for raising a heifer in the Netherlands were € 1700. Labour costs not included.
- Dairy cows produce more in later lactations, with a higher feed efficiency. Farmers miss this extra free production completely.
2. They understand cows
To achieve excellent animal welfare and longevity, there’s only one simple thing you need to do: provide the cow with what she needs. If you give the cow her six basic needs, she will pay you back in health and milk.
To know if cows are provided with these 6 basics, all you have to do is look at the cow signals. The cow will tell you herself what she needs, she knows best!
3. They understand elements outside their area of expertise
Another challenge for advisors is to understand factors involved in animal welfare besides their own expertise. We value the knowledge of experts a lot, but the best advisors also have a general understanding of all elements: housing, feed, health, management and economics. It’s the only way you can truly help farmers understand the source of their problems and help them find the right solution.
4. They have the ability to make things practical and simple
Let me start by saying that I appreciate scientific knowledge a lot. My colleagues and I made sure that everything we state with CowSignals is evidence based. However, to make this knowledge usable for farmers, you need to be able to translate it into practise. So we also visited a lot of farms to see what works and what doesn’t. We want to make sure that if we provide a solution, it’s one that the farmer is able to execute.
5. They understand people
When I started out as a vet and an advisor, I soon learned that having excellent knowledge about cows is not enough. Even more so, it might have made me a little arrogant and that for sure didn’t make farmers want to listen to me. I soon realised I not only needed to understand the cow signals, but also the people signals. Advising is more about listening and asking the right questions than it is about telling people what to do. To truly help farmers, you have to look from the farmers point of view. That is the starting point from which you can effect real change. So next to developing the CowSignals concept, I’ve also created the PeopleSignals Action Model. It’s all about understanding people and getting them to take action.
The best farm advisors in the world
We’ve been lucky enough to already work with a lot of great farm advisors around the world. People and companies that are truly interested in doing what’s best for the farmer and the cow. They’ve been real eager to expend their knowledge and skills so that they also mastered skills 2 till 5. We’re hoping to work with a lot more motivated advisors in the future!
About Open Certified CowSignals Master course
This is a 4 day training program, with 50% focus on CowSignals and 50% focus on PeopleSignals. You learn to understand cows better and to see all the cow signals. You get an understanding of all factors involved in dairy management: health, management, housing, feed and economics. We give you evidence based knowledge with practical solutions from the best farms from over 60 countries. We also teach you to understand people and to read the people signals. We teach you to listen and to ask the right questions. We show you how to effect real change with farmers.
After taking this course you can do CowSignals advisories, lectures and workshops yourself. Especially working with a group will bring you huge benefits: we see farmers take the biggest steps if they can learn from each other as well. Our trainers have also been very excited about this: it’s a fun and valuable way to have contact with 10 clients in one day. It’s also a great way to attract new clients.
Hope to see you there!