Who's on your farm's team?
“Together Everyone Achieves More.” “Teamwork makes the dream work.” There are probably a dozen more adages I could include here about the importance of teams. Teams go beyond sports and can be present in different areas of our lives—coworkers can be a team, our own family can be a team, even the friends and relatives who help us with a baby shower or at the fair are a team of sorts. Teams are also an integral part of successful dairy farms. Think about your own farm. Who would you consider to be a member of your farm’s team? Maybe the first people that came to mind were parents, siblings, children, or other relatives. If you have employees, you probably consider them members of the team as well. Anyone else? Hopefully, your answer is yes!
There is no denying that the people who are on the farm every day and are involved in the daily operations are an important part of your team. However, there are several other people who may not be there every day, but are just as important! These people still play a role in the success of your farm, and their expertise should be brought in regularly for team meetings. Here are my suggestions for whom to include on your farm’s team:
Your herdsman is the person you depend on to keep your farm running smoothly. If you have employees, including them in your team is a must. Your herdsman can help relay messages from the team meetings to the rest of your employees. In addition, it shows your employees that you value their position on your farm and want them to be a part of the organization.
Your nutritionist plays a key role in the health and productivity of your cows. Most likely, you are meeting with them regularly already as you tweak diets and consider feed inventory. This is a person who should be aware of what is happening in other areas of your farm as well. From an economic standpoint, you are spending the most money on your feed, so the person helping with your biggest expense should understand how that works into the bigger puzzle of the entire farm.
Your veterinarian is a vital part of keeping your cows healthy. Most vets are regular visitors of the farm, and have a good understanding of what is going on with the cows. They are helpful team members as they can offer recommendations related to the cows and how they are managed. They also can provide insight into cost of healthcare.
Your breeder is likely on the farm more than both your nutritionist and vet. Similar to your veterinarian, they have a good understanding of how the cows are managed on a daily basis. Breeding is an important part of farm productivity and often other members of your team may not be aware of the farm’s reproductive program. Having your breeder around will ensure everyone knows and understands the goals of your program.
Your lender may not be on the farm regularly, but they are no less important than any other team member listed here. It is no secret that without your lender, you might not be able to farm. Keep them in the loop and invite them to the table with your other team members to ensure they understand what is working and what is not working on your farm. Providing your lender with as much information as possible allows them support you and work with you on a more friendly basis.
Farm business management instructor
If you are enrolled in a farm business management program, then you should make sure your FBM instructor is included on your team. Not only do they understand the business side of your farm, they also have an idea of the daily operation as well. Additionally, they may be able to connect you and the rest of your team to valuable resources.
If you use an accountant for your farm, be sure to include them in your team. Like your lender and FBM instructor, they are aware of your farm financial situation and that insight is valuable for goal setting. Also, if they work with items related to your employees, their experience can be useful as well.
Your hoof trimmer should also be included on your team. A unique thing about hoof trimmers is they can tie together several aspects of your farm. They know your schedule and management style, and can offer insight on nutrition, health, and cow comfort.
Some farms may have a crop consultant who works with the nutritionist. They should also be included in your team as they can give insight on the crop portion of your farm business. It is an integral part of feeding your cows, so make sure you include them on your team.
Creamery field representative
Your field rep is a valuable resource with information on marketing, premiums, and regulations—among other things. Their experience in the field and on other farms can assist your team in brainstorming and goal setting.
Dairy equipment specialist
Your dairy equipment specialist brings a unique understanding of the mechanics of milking your cows. They offer an irreplaceable perspective related to equipment and milking facilities. Also, they can assist your team in working through any problems related to milk quality.
Check with your county office if there is a local educator or regional educator that could visit with you. Like all of the professionals listed here, extension educators spend a lot of time on many farms, and they may have some ideas based on what they have seen. Just like your FBM instructor, educators also have access to a wide range of resources and educational materials.
Once you have assembled your team, set up a meeting! It is important for everyone to meet one another and learn more about what are your goals for the farm. Allow everyone an opportunity to offer their perspective and ideas. Set a regular meeting schedule so the team can stay focused on helping you reach your goals. A good resource for putting together a farm team is Minnesota Dairy Initiative. Your local MDI coordinator can work with you to create a comprehensive farm team. For more information, visit Minnesota Dairy Initiative. Your farm team is so much more than you, your family, and your employees. Bring together all your resources and remember, “Together Everyone Achieves More.”