It’s definitely a generational issue. As dairy farms all over the country transition from one generation to the next, there can be a lot of different issues that need to be resolved – differences in management styles, financial strategies, risk management, or maybe crop planting decisions. Real problems can arise when the newer generation comes in looking to make big changes and irritating the older generation in the process. Before you know it, no one can even stand to be in the same room as the other and the business is beginning to suffer.
My younger brother and I became part of our farm in 2015, and it was all very amicable. Because the paperwork came almost seven years after the actual managerial change, there wasn’t much arguing and no major changes. But when I returned home to the farm, it was a whole different story. The easiest issue to illustrate my point was a simple one: paper versus computer.
All of our cow records were meticulous and organized but still kept on paper. Our county DHIA had been trying to get us on PCDart for years, but my dad wouldn’t spend time at the computer. But when I came home, he was all for it. The issue came when I wanted to switch solely to the computer. It was taking me twice as long to put it all in the computer and then write it down for him to see. “Why can’t I just teach you how to look it up on the computer?” I must’ve said a thousand times!
I proved my point one day when a cow came into heat that I was sure was eligible to breed but dad couldn’t find her in his handwritten records. We went into the computer and discovered that she was 80 days in milk but had missed being written in his breeding book. At least a dozen times since, the computer has caught a mistake the written records made and vice versa.
The whole ordeal taught me this; when taking over a business, event, position, or task – no matter how big or small – from someone else, it pays to take the time to learn how they did things before making big changes on your own. Learn their process, find its weaknesses, and then let your process make it better. Not only will you have a more efficient business, maybe it’ll lead to a better relationship with those who came before you.
The author dairies in partnership with her parents and brother at Spruce Row Farm in Pennsylvania. Jessica is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University, and since 2015, she has been active in promoting dairy in her local community. You can find her and her 250 Jersey cows on Facebook at Spruce Row Dairy or on Instagram at @seejessfarm.