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Who’s on your dairy’s roster?

Olivier Demers for Progressive Dairyman Published on 31 May 2016
The Game Plan

Just like many other industries, agriculture has transformed over the past few decades. Not only is it changing, but it is changing at a very rapid pace.

If we go back 40 years, my father had just come out of college after studying agriculture. He had taken the first available sales representative position at a feed company in the Matapedia Valley.

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At this point in his career, he had to convince producers that 14 to 16 percent crude protein in their complete feed was necessary, and often mineral use was not common. In addition, milk production had only begun to move towards a 12-month production. Some farmers were still milking seasonally.

Today, the dairy landscape has changed completely. Globalization, volatile milk prices, efficiency strategies, “fine tuning,” managing employees and many other challenges have been added to the dairy producer’s daily docket.

Producers can no longer simply milk their cows twice a day stress-free. Each step must be scrutinized, as each case of negligence can be very expensive to the farm.

In order to have a successful dairy operation, dairy farmers must have access to retrieving and sharing the latest information. The various barriers that exist, such as language and distance, are virtually gone. Social networks allow farmers to access information directly from their computer or their smartphone.

Dairy producers are no longer simply dairy farmers as generations before knew them; they are business managers, and every decision can have a major impact on the profitability of their business.

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In addition to social networks, the number of participants on the farm has exploded. Now, dairy farmers must choose their partners carefully. The success of their business no longer resides in just working with a trustworthy feed representative, agronomist, veterinarian or financial adviser.

To ensure the success of their business, a successful dairy producer is the one who is able to surround himself with a team.

The coach

Like in sports, a team does not necessarily have to be made up of the best players to claim victory. The team that will win the cup is the one with a coach – the dairy farmer – which can create a strong chemistry and team spirit within his united team.

In addition to managing the financial statements, the fields, the cows and overall production, he must build his team to bring him the best results.

  • Define the rules of the game: Every dairy operation should have a clear mandate for their advisers and make sure everyone respects the mandate.

  • Motivation: Keep your players motivated to drive productivity. Have quarterly meetings and discuss the objectives and their points of view. Meetings should be motivational, not intimidating, and should be a time for everyone to contribute.

  • Listen and pay attention to your team’s attitude: It is very important that every member of that team is able to deliver his or her best; if someone needs more space or more time, it’s important to support them. Don’t tolerate poor cooperation. Address it right away.

The advisers

As for counselors, keep in mind that the primary goal of our work is to sell, whether it be products or time (our service). Our purpose, however, is helping producers. Without them, we have no job.

In business, especially in milk production, the status quo does not exist. It is not enough to be a good sales representative; we must now be good advisers and full of resources.

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One does not know everything, but we must be able to surround ourselves with the best in order to have a full and useful tool box.

Dairy industry professionals to include on your team:

  • Financial adviser
  • Veterinarian
  • Nutritionist or feed representative
  • Accountant
  • Extension educator
  • A.I. representative
  • Crop consultant
  • Other dairy producer(s)
  • On-farm auditor

According to Penn State Extension, a dairy advisory team should include three to five of the most trusted, talented professionals who visit the farm regularly. It is important to choose members with diverse knowledge and access to resources.

Dairy audits

It is important for the advisers on the team to support the dairy operation in reaching goals, solving problems, troubleshooting and helping to lay a foundation for a profitable and sustainable future.

At times it is essential to step back and evaluate the team’s success or shortcomings, making sure each component on-farm is promoting profitability and practicality.

The team

When a team wins, all of the players’ names are on the cup, and this is the goal for which we must aim. This is what producers need today.

Remember to pause a few times a year and, as a team, establish a game plan which will concentrate on two to three of the producer’s main objectives and stay the course the rest of the year.

Sometimes other opportunities pop up, but we must never lose the common objective and ensure these other opportunities do not jeopardize the primary goal.

Everyone on the dairy must be team players. What this means is: If we win, it is as a team – but if we lose, it is also as a team. The goal is not to place blame on other players, but watch the playback, take corrective action and work together to meet the demands of the coach.

There are no guaranteed formulas, but a united team and a chain without weak links is a very big step forward.  PD

Olivier Demers
  • Olivier Demers

  • Sales Manager
  • Alltech Quebec
  • Email Olivier Demers

A dairy audit 
A dairy audit looks at every piece of the puzzle for a successful dairy:

  • Milk quality
  • Immunization practices
  • Cow comfort in parlour
  • Udder hygiene
  • Parlour and barn lighting
  • Air quality in barn
  • Stall design
  • Dry cow and close-up facility
  • Feeding schedules
  • Waterers
  • Stray voltage
  • Bunkers
  • Forage management
  • Nutritive value of TMR

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