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University of Minnesota Extension

Extension > Agriculture > Livestock > Dairy > Grazing systems > Knee deep in grass: A survey of twenty-nine grazing operations in Minnesota > Business management

Business management

Brian Loeffler, Helene Murray, Dennis G. Johnson, Earl I. Fuller
Reviewed 2008

Marketing for non-monetary reasons

Participants were asked if there are any non-monetary reasons for the types of marketing they do. Eighteen responded that there were non-monetary reasons for at least some of their marketing. Eight said no. Three had no response.

Five of the 18 who responded yes, said they supported cooperatives. This included both buying and selling transactions with cooperatives. Three direct-marketed products in an attempt to improve the consumer-producer link. They were also hoping to realize higher profits by avoiding the middleman. Two farmers reported switching milk buyers to those who didn't purchase milk from BST-treated cows. Others said that they felt comfortable with present milk buyers; were showing support for organizations like the National Farm Organization (NFO)or had no alternatives, i.e., no other buyers are in their area.

Knowledge gathering

Graziers identified sources of information, training and experience they found valuable in managing their farm business. Common responses were:

Number Responses
18 Various organizations (grazing clubs, Sustainable Farming Association)
12 Popular journals
12 University Extension and farm management courses
8 College or vo-tech education
8 Neighbors and older generation farmers
6 Work experience
3 Holistic resource management courses
2 Dairy Herd Improvement Association
2 Books

Networks such as grazing clubs appeared effective in sharing information among their members. Members said they typically meet once or twice a month at farms owned by club members. Participants noted that grazing club members generally rely on each other as sources of information and that they seldom seek outside experts. Many members found the clubs useful for providing management information as well as social support within the community.

Trade journals and magazines such as Hoard's Dairyman, Stockmen Grass Farmer, New Farm (now defunct), Dairy Today, Grass Farmer and Dairy Herd Management were commonly read by graziers seeking information.

Holistic resource management (HRM)

"HRM teaches you to think for yourself. It changed my way of thinking, my goals and what is important to me."

Nine graziers had completed courses, of whom seven said they were useful. One grazier was taking courses. Nineteen graziers had never attended an HRM class. One grazier remarked, "HRM teaches you to think for yourself. It changed my way of thinking, my goals and what is important to me." Two graziers felt the courses were not useful because they were already using many of the HRM concepts in their farming operations.

Operational changes

Graziers were asked about changes they have made on their farms that have worked particularly well. Nineteen respondents specifically noted MIG as being successful, although this does not imply that the others didn't think it worked well. Seven reported that their renovated milking facilities have worked well. Five agreed that improved pasture management skills have been productive and two said group feeding young stock (feeding calves on milk) has worked well.

Farmers were asked which changes have been unsuccessful and what would they like to do again. Four graziers said they would like to rearrange their pasture set up. They blamed poor planning for pasture bottlenecks. Three reported having trouble with the transition to seasonal freshening and said they would do it differently if given the opportunity. Three indicated that they would not purchase some of their equipment and facilities (e.g., upright silos).

In general, farmers felt that some things haven't worked well because of a lack of short- and long-term planning. Some indicated that they would change the goals themselves. For example, many indicated that although their goals originally included purchasing the latest equipment and facilities, they now wished they had avoided those expenditures. Many of these producers have recently changed their goals and means to attain them.

Farm transfer

Two farmers indicated that they had definite plans to transfer their farm businesses to family members. The remainder reported that they would like to provide an opportunity for family members to take over the operation some day. Some respondents indicated that if family members were not interested they would attempt to find young people who would continue the farm operation in a similar manner.

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