farm articles

Don't be barnyard blind

Smart managers, they say, always surround themselves with people smarter than they are. That bit of advice makes a strong argument for putting a management team together for your operation. So do the participants in the Round Table article on page 54. We strongly encourage you to read about the experiences of those producers from across the country representing a variety of herd sizes.

Each day on a farm is packed with never-ending chores, headaches, and interruptions. That environment makes it so easy to continue doing what we've been doing. We can be so close to the problems we face on our farms that we do not step back and envision creative solutions. We become barnyard blind.

When we do think of possible solutions to problems we face, we need to bounce those ideas off of experienced people who know what works and doesn't work on other farms. Helping identify stumbling blocks and eliminating them is the real value of having a farm management team.

At the Hoard's Dairyman Farm, we actually have two teams that meet about quarterly. We have a financial team and a management team. For expedience, we often hold both meetings the same day, but that takes a big commitment of time, four to five hours, for those involved with both.

Our financial team compares in­­come and expense accounts to budget, makes apples-to-apples comparisons of milk buyers, and does many "partial budgets," considering questions such as should we add more cows or how much can we pay for hay ground.

Our management team tracks transition cow trends by analyzing disease and disorder incidence, fresh-cow starts (three-week and nine-week milk production), and preg rates. We review feed inventories and plan cropping strategy. We spend part of each session identifying and tackling any problem that is keeping our cows and people from performing as well as they can.

Having management teams has helped the Round Table participants greatly, and it has made a big difference for our farm, also. If you don't already have one, we highly recommend that you form a team of your farm's advisors and plan on meeting regularly. It could be a turning point for your business. It was for ours.