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Extension > Agriculture > Dairy Extension > Labor/Employees > "Chalking the Field" for Your Dairy's Management Team

"Chalking the Field" for Your Dairy's Management Team

Chuck Schwartau

Published in Dairy Star September 10, 2005

Chalking an athletic field

Just as groundskeepers need to chalk the boundaries on the athletic field, dairy farmers need to 'chalk the field' to help keep themselves and everyone working on their farm focused on where they want to take their dairy business.

Dr. Robert Milligan, formerly of Cornell University and now affiliated with Dairy Strategies, LLC, uses the phrase 'chalking the field' when talking about whether or not a team of owner/managers and employees on a dairy farm know what the business is about, where it is intended to go and how it intends to get there.

Milligan borrows the term from sports. Teams and coaches do a better job of playing the game together when they all play by the same rules and know boundaries of the field on which they are playing – what is fair play and what is out of bounds. 'Chalking the field' helps set those parameters. It sets the boundaries and establishes a level playing field for everyone involved.

This same concept is important for dairy farms wherever more than one person is involved in the management and operation of the farm. Just as the league policies or the coaches set the rules for the game and outline the playing field, dairy managers need to make known the 'rules' of working on a dairy. Those rules may actually be expectations of what the farm is to achieve and general guides of how to get there. Given these outlines, the managers and the employees can better work together to achieve established, common goals. They can focus their efforts on achievement rather than problem solving.

What are some of the rules that 'chalk the field'?

These are just a few of the concepts that 'chalk the field' for employees and employers on a dairy farm. They provide a basis on which much more can be built as the team members gain other skills and trust in each other.

['Chalking the field' is just one of the many tools being adapted for use with dairy farmers in Minnesota to bring operational excellence to dairy farm management and help assure they have a future in the changing Minnesota dairy industry. Regional Extension Educators and Farm Business Management advisors around the state are working with Dairy Strategies, LLC, on pilot farms to fine tune their skills and other management tools. The goal is to take the experiences learned on the pilot farms and apply them on more dairy farms desiring to develop management skills for the future.]

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