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Management by Wandering Around

According to Wikipedia, “management by walking around refers to a style of business management which involves managers wandering around, in an unstructured manner, through the workplace, at random, to check with employees, equipment, or on the status of ongoing work. The emphasis is on the word wandering as an unplanned movement within a workplace, rather than a plan where employees expect a visit from managers at more systematic, pre-approved or scheduled times.”

As I work with dairies and do my own wandering around their farms I am often amazed by the number of things that are being overlooked by the farm owner/manager. As I take notes of these things I find myself wondering, “How long has this been going on …..and how long will it keep going on if I don’t bring it to someone’s attention?” When I’m finished walking around, I usually have to spend some time finding the dairy manager. They are typically performing an urgent task somewhere on the farm. I get it……some things have to be done right now…..I just wonder how many “important” things are going undone because we are working on “urgent” things. A couple of quick examples:

The other day I was on a dairy farm “wandering around” before a management meeting. I noticed that the fresh cow stalls were 6” low on bedding, the cows were dirty and multiple cows were standing/perching in the stalls. I took some pictures. 20 minutes later we were having a group discussion about fresh cow daily activity times. The discussion started down the line of 4X milking, rumination time, ration energy etc. ……..until I produced the pictures.

On another farm I took the time to walk through the calf feeding barn. The 2-4 week old calves were very thin. So, I wandered over to the crates where they were fed for the first week after being born...... these younger calves were robust and in the peak of health and growth! (By the way….I also catch a lot of employees doing everything RIGHT!) In this case, I had just identified a problem with the automatic calf feeder.

I understand how overwhelming things can be. And, that things don’t always go the way they are supposed to! However, I find way too many things in my wanderings about to think that they only coincidentally happen on the day I’m on the farm.

So please, as dairy farmers and managers pour up a cup of your favorite brew and spend some time wandering around your farm. It’s relaxing and good for the soul anyway. And, who knows, you may catch a lot people doing things right!

Insights from Dr. Kevin Hoogendoorn, DVM, Creator and Owner of the ZISK dairy app.

September 26, 2023



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