This week I’m getting a lesson in ‘fear’ that many of you have had when a key employee left for another opportunity. The research coordinator for our research barns last day of employment was last Friday. Until we are successful in hiring and training a replacement, the overall coordination of pig flows and data that she did is being done by me. With an inventory of around 11,000 individually tagged and weighed wean-finish pigs currently in inventory I’m fearful of screwing up the data that seemed to flow from the barns with relative ease under her direction for the last 7 years.
Add to this the fact that this person was my research coordinator at the University of Nebraska for the 4 year period prior to my retirement from that institution and you can see how she had become a key employee. We trusted her to create the data capture routines as we developed SVC Research and now we’re learning everything she did in that regard. While I know in general what was being done with the data, to suddenly have to make it happen in data sets with upwards of 2000 individually ear tagged pigs is proving to be a challenge.
Quality research data takes a lot of effort on a lot of peoples part. I’ve worked with other production systems as they considered an investment in a research facility and getting them to understand the level of detail necessary to be confident in the outcome can be a challenge.
Replication is the key to research. This means many pens on the same treatment (treatment could be diet or drinker or feeder type or vaccine or genetic source or ???). It’s really easy in a large research setting for mistakes in application of the research protocol to occur and it requires good employees in the barns and a good system of oversight and verification to be sure mistakes are minimized.
After 7 years of knowing it was done ‘right’, I’m faced with learning how to do it ‘right’ all over again. If you talk with me in the coming few months I’m sure I’ll be willing to share my latest ‘mistake’ as this learning curve progresses.