I may lack points for originality, but I think January is a wonderful time to do some planning for the year ahead regarding goals for your farm. In school, we are trained to always ask a farmer what his goals are before we do anything else on a farm visit. All too often, this simple question stumps farmers into silence.
What are goals? You have probably heard of the acronym used for defining S.M.A.R.T. goals- Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. I agree this widely known acronym helps us remember how to create quality goals; however, I propose we make smart F.A.R.M. goals and consider Feeding, Acreage, Reproduction, and Management. By taking a whole farm approach, we can break our goals down into the specific areas in our farm in order to make our goals more attainable.
What are your strengths and weaknesses within your feeding program? Do you switch nutritionists every time the cows drop a pound of production? Do you have trouble reading a forage analysis? How are you going about mixing and delivering your feed? Last year one of our Lely farmers had a free feed audit done by Diamond V. They learned a lot and could implement changes in their feed program right away. This led to near immediate results. The best changes on a farm are ones that require little effort and have significant impact. Sometimes all it takes is being open to changing the way things have always been done!
Most farms plan their planting strategy during the winter months. Who oversees this task on your farm? Do you have a general idea of the yield you need to see in order to sustain your dairy’s needs? Make it a goal. How do you factor in cost? Have you considered the latest research and technology for crop production? Asking yourself the tough questions before the year begins will help you to outline where you can improve and, therefore, what goals can be made.
How do your reproduction KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) compare to the industry standards? I think reproduction is one of the easier areas on the farm to measure success, thanks to all the information available in the industry. As a Lely farmer, you have access to the reproduction module: Farm Management. This is a key tool in analyzing your reproduction program, and it makes it simple to create a goal that is measurable. If you are struggling with how to make improvements, your veterinarian, along with the Farm Management Support Specialist in your area, can help implement new techniques for improvement.
How proficient are your T4C skills? Are you utilizing the program to its full capacity or are you using the same two reports every day? Have you been open to the latest updates or have you stayed consistent in your management techniques? Review some of the problems that plagued your herd in the previous year. Are there changes you can make in your management to reduce this problem? From a different perspective, how efficient are you in the barn? Can you change the order you do chores to increase efficiency? Can you train your employees to be more efficient?
S.M.A.R.T. F.A.R.M. Goals
As you can see, there is a multitude of questions you can ask yourself to identify areas of growth on your farm that will lead you to creating achievable goals. I believe that goals are most realistic when you break down your farm into sections, and then identify your strengths and weaknesses within each section. Your goal of “I want to get cows bred back faster” becomes “I want to see a 2% increase in pregnancy rate by the end of the year after I retake the AI class.” No matter how you choose to make your goals, the take-home message is that you must have goals for your operation. All too often, I meet with farms who are stuck in the day to day. I encourage you to step back and view your farm at 10,000 feet, as the saying goes. After all, if you don’t know where you’re going, you might end up somewhere else.
Happy New Year! Wishing you health, success, happiness and lots of Lely robots in 2018.