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What should dairy owners and managers expect from consultants?

Joanne Knapp Published on 26 June 2014

Dairy producers hire consultants for the services and expertise they provide. Consultants, whether they are nutrition consultants, veterinarians, crop and nutrient management plan advisors or financial advisors, are contractors paid by the dairy operation.As Dr. Tamilee Nennich from Purdue University has written, simply paying the consultant on a regular basis does not ensure that the consultant is providing the dairy operation with the best service possible.

What should dairy producers expect from their consultants? In short, consultants should provide knowledge, skills and values. The following sets of questions should help you in assessing current and prospective consultants.

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Knowledge

  • Does the consultant have the appropriate level of education?
  • Was the education from a program at an accredited institution? Be wary of online degrees and certifications. Would you be comfortable undergoing heart surgery from a cardiologist who was trained online?
  • Does the consultant keep his/her subject knowledge up-to-date through continuing education activities? Consultants can achieve this by participating in professional organizations such as ARPAS (American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists) and AABP (American Association of Bovine Practitioners).
  • Is the consultant certified or licensed? Nutrition consultants are certified by 
ARPAS; veterinarians are licensed by a veterinary board from each state they practice in; technical service providers may be certified crop advisors or technical service providers; and financial advisors may be certified public accountants or accredited agricultural consultants.

Skills

  • Does the consultant have solid communication skills, both oral and written?
  • What's the consultant's experience in the field and industry?
  • Does the consultant present him/herself in a professional manner?
  • Does the consultant provide science-based solutions and recommendations? For obvious reasons, this is not applicable to financial advisors.
  • Is the consultant effective in your management team? Does he/she maintain a positive and professional relationship with you, your other advisors and consultants, management staff and employees?

Values

  • Dedication – Is the consultant dedicated to enhancing your dairy operation and the dairy industry as a whole?
  • Timely and Punctual – Does the consultant provide information and recommendations when needed? Are they punctual for meetings and appointments?
  • Responsible – Does the consultant provide thoroughly researched recommendations and solutions, and do they stand by them?
  • Financial integrity – Does the consultant disclose all of his/her pertinent business and financial relationships to you? Consultants should not be compensated from multiple sources for the same service, unless all parties consent to the relationship.
  • Ethical – Does the consultant hold to the code of ethics for his/her profession?

Visit the following websites to learn about specific codes of ethics for each profession:

Ultimately, the best consultant is the one who provides satisfaction to you and your business. Having the right knowledge, skills and values will ensure that satisfaction. The best ways to ascertain whether the consultant has the knowledge, skills and values you're looking for are to check his/her references and require certification or licensure. PD

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Joanne Knapp, Ph.D., PAS, is an independent consultant with Fox Hollow Consulting LLC. She provides scientific and technical expertise to companies in the food, feed and pharmaceutical industries. She is currently serving as Midwest director for National ARPAS and chair of the ARPAS Ethics Committee, and is president-elect of the Midwest ARPAS Chapter. She can be contacted by emailor at (559) 788-9695.

This is the first article in a series written by ARPAS members on how consultants bring value to dairy businesses.

References omitted due to space but are available upon request. Email a Progressive Dairyman editor.

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