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Management

Manage dairy employees, establish farm protocols, take on milk marketing, and become more confident in your farm financials.

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Transformations go on around us every day on the dairy – heifers become cows, grass becomes hay and fall weather quickly turns to the bitter cold of winter. But, over the last year, we’ve seen even bigger changes in the dairy industry.

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Now is the time to capitalize on high milk prices and make up for the low milk prices of 2006. By developing a marketing strategy to lock in long-term cash flows, producers can offset low milk prices that are certain to return following the effects of high prices, which include improved profitability, herd expansion and milk supply growth.

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Improving milk quality often consists of managing a complex system that includes people, cows, machines and the environment. Surveys of veterinarians and other professionals working with dairy producers indicate that barriers to improvement of milk quality are primarily related to motivation and implementation rather than lack of technical knowledge or skills.

In a survey of 165 Wisconsin dairy professionals, the existence of too many other problems (55 percent) and few incentives for production of high-quality milk (48 percent) were the predominant reasons cited for failure of farms to improve milk quality. Only a few responders indicated they felt the need for additional on-farm training programs (24 percent).

During the summer of 2006, farmers that had completed the Milk Money program were asked an open-ended question that stated, “What is your greatest challenge in maintaining production of high-quality milk?” The most common responses were related to employee management (mentioned by 26 percent of responders), followed by management of the environment of the cow (mentioned by 14 percent of responders) and maintaining consistency in the milking process (mentioned by 11 percent of responders).

It is no mystery why employee management is mentioned so often, because 51 percent of farms responding to a post-Milk Money survey indicated that they employed Spanish-speaking employees, yet only 15 percent indicated they had any ability to speak or understand Spanish and 40 percent had never employed an interpreter.

These communication challenges are a fundamental reason why producing high-quality milk continues to be a challenge for many farmers. The ability to implement recommended management practices is an essential aspect of quality milk production. Implementation is dependent on the ability to clearly communicate the value of these practices and to motivate farm personnel to consistently apply them. PD

References omitted but are available upon request at

—From University of Wisconsin Milk Quality Resource website

Despite the fact that the United States has the safest food supply in the world, food safety has become a high- profile issue. Media attention related to livestock diseases, food recalls and foodborne illness has heightened consumer awareness and concern. E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria have become household words. Consumers want to protect their families from these and other contaminants that may find their way to the dinner table.

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Owners and managers should have a job description, and there are differences in what should be in that job description. The first item should be putting a title on your job and getting key elements included in the description. For many dairy operators, this may involve making a significant attitude change in their thinking. Most consider themselves “farmers.” Historically, farmers think of themselves as “doers.” Farmers do things. The change needs to include the idea that farmers also manage.

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Traditionally, veterinarians working with milk quality and mastitis control programs have used records to some extent but have relied mostly on farm and milking time observation for evaluation and diagnosis and problem solving. However, in recent years, developments in computer handling of data along with newer techniques for bacterial culturing have provided a set of tools that allows diagnosis and monitoring to be done more easily and accurately.

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