Setting goals for your dairy can be done at any time, but take the time this New Year to write them down.

Yesterday, I worked with high school students preparing their 2012 livestock project goals. The goals were specific to their individual projects and work responsibilities. The exercise, to write their goals down and share them with their classmates, helped to expand the scope of what their project could ultimately entail. New ideas came forth during the sharing portion, which acted as a brainstorming session. Their goals focused on multiple aspects of their projects, yet were specific enough to measure and track. Things included rate of gain, consigning breeding stock to state-level sales, learning to artificial inseminate, becoming more efficient in machinery operation (and hence lower the time it takes to complete a task). Does your farm have goals? Who creates the goals? Are they updated yearly or quarterly? Are your employees or family members aware of these goals? Are they visible to those involved? Are there protocols in place so that everyone involved is consistent and the goals can be achieved?
When writing goals, they should be SMART. • Specific • Measurable • Attainable • Realistic • Timely Therefore, goals need to be able to be tracked to monitor progress.
Goals can be whatever you deem appropriate for your operation. Examples might be to lower somatic cell count, increase herd reproductive efficiency, boost crop yields or quality. Each of these have values that can be assessed. Do you have the tools or resources to assist in achieving your goals? Progress should be monitored so you can track goals to their completion. It is also important to share your goals with those intimately involved in the process. If you set a goal for calf death loss, the calf feeder and those that monitor the maternity area, need to be kept informed, too. As you enter 2012, set attainable goals for your operation and don't forget to celebrate when they are reached! And once your goals have been achieved, up the stakes so employees continually have something to strive for. A June 2011 article by Kirk Sattazahn shares more about SMART goals and how to create Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to serve as a guideline for consistent performance in your herd.