Like most FMS Specialists, start-up is one area I am particularly passionate about. For me, it’s more than the importance of a smooth transition and getting the cows (and the people!) off to the best possible start. I’m passionate because I’ve experienced start-up from the farm perspective.

During the summer of my sophomore year of college, I interned on a dairy in New York that was installing robots. We were supposed to be starting the robots up the week after I took my finals. Instead, I milked all summer and we ended up starting up the week before I left to head back to Virginia Tech. I remember that summer well, full of trials and tribulations, and I am so grateful for it. I believe that that summer is one of the pivotal times that has shaped me as an FMS Specialist.

Throughout my experience with start-ups, both from the farm and FMS perspective, here are some of the things I’ve learned.

  1. First impressions are everything.

When first arriving at the farm, it is so important to make a good first impression and walk away making sure the customer feels encouraged. From the farmer’s perspective, they are in the middle of chaos. Whether it is construction delays, cow work they’re behind on, or even installation concerns – they have a million and one things on their plate. It’s been interesting to see the different personalities of each farmer as I travel to the first FMS training. Some are overjoyed and excited to learn the computer program, while others are so overwhelmed that they can’t see straight. No matter how the farmer is feeling when I arrive, it is my goal to make sure they feel as though they are supported and understand that they have a team standing behind them to help when I leave.

2. Slow and steady is best.

It’s easy to breeze through information like cow entry, library settings, milk access, etc. when you’re used to talking about it every day. When you’re training farmers for the first time, it is crucial to remember that slow and steady is best. Every farmer has a unique learning style and pace. As an FMS Specialist, it is our job to be aware of the cues we are picking up from farmers. Do they want to learn it all in one day? Do they need one piece of information at a time? Do they need it written down so they can review it later, on their own time? Each approach to T4C training should not be the same.

3. Farmers should be a T4C expert before start-up.

It is always my goal that farmers are supremely confident in T4C before start-up. I want them to be assured in their knowledge on the computer side, so they can do nothing but focus on the cows the day that start-up comes. This includes all the cow management that goes into preparing for start-up. If I’m doing my job, all udders will be singed, tails will be clipped, collars will be on cows, cows will be pre-trained if possible, there will be no lame cows or stale cows, milk access and feed tables will be set up for the initial start, and people will be on a schedule to push cows! All focus will be on calm and smooth handling of the cows as they have their first experience getting milked in the robot.

For Lely Center Mid-Atlantic, we are approaching a season of start-ups! We are looking forward to our last remaining A4 start-ups and are excited to get our first A5 start-up underway. As I prepare for start-up, the Maya Angelou quote often comes to mind:  “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” As an FMS Specialist, we work to make our customers feel confident in their abilities and in the Lely Network they have standing beside them.

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