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Pauly Paul: The dairy ‘fix-it’ man

Progressive Dairyman Editor Peggy Coffeen Published on 31 March 2015

Pauly paul

Who do dairies call when their management is in need of repair? The fix-it man. With a little ingenuity and some elbow grease, Pauly Paul turns downtrodden dairies into fine-tuned machines.

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Paul’s business card says “Dairy Management Consultant.” However, he is not the kind that comes out in khaki pants for a day to tell you how to run your dairy from a boardroom table. Instead, he shows you.

Paul takes a hands-on approach, getting right down in the pit of the parlor and out among the cows in the pens. He works right alongside employees to see through the changes that he recommends, spending weeks – even months – on-site.

Paul got his introduction to the dairy industry by working on his grandfather’s farm near New Holstein, Wisconsin. He spent 15 years breeding cows before becoming a herd manager, eventually landing on a couple of struggling dairies he successfully turned around.

The 30-day fix

During the 2009 dairy crisis, Paul’s growing reputation for “fixing” troubled dairies caught the attention of John Roach of Roach & Associates LLC. The Wisconsin-based consulting firm had been summoned by banks in Ohio to handle a group of large dairies going through receivership.

The banks intended to hire an interim manager to see through the depopulation of these unprofitable dairies over a 30-day period, at the end of which they would go up for sale. But Paul and Roach proposed a different strategy. Instead of shutting the dairy down, they wanted to flip it around.

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In 30 to 90 days, he would have the dairy cleaned up and ready to be sold as a turn-key operation, positioning it as an income-generating venture – a much more salable investment than an empty barn. The arrangement would include Roach running the numbers and Paul going on location.

‘Management nightmares’

Thus, Paul’s job was to assume the operation manager’s role on these dairies; however, this was no cushy desk job. Simply stated, “They were management nightmares.”

By the time Paul got on these bankrupt dairies, there wasn’t a dime to spare. The banks were not willing to put another dollar into these operations. Cows were in rough shape: down on milk, way out on days open and suffering from untreated lameness and metabolic disorders.

Facilities were run down with broken doors and stalls, and the feed piles were low. As one can imagine, employee morale struggled, too. But the challenges didn’t end there.

In one such instance, he was greeted the first day on a dairy by a caravan of state government officials because the herd was under a tuberculosis quarantine and the manure pit was on the verge of an overflow.

No matter how bad the situation and how limited the resources, Paul immediately went into problem-solving mode. “Every place I went, I went in thinking that I could change it,” he says. “I never thought about failure.”

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Paul’s strategy was to quickly and carefully assess the situation and identify priorities of where to “stop the bleeding” first. This meant cutting losses by parting ways with both unproductive cows and employees. His knack for organizing labor and improving efficiency often resulted in more milk from fewer cows with fewer employees. In 30 to 60 days’ time, many of the dairies were up 10 to 15 pounds of milk per cow per day.

Oh, the stories he could tell …

Altogether, Paul spent several years intermittently living in Ohio, successfully turning around multiple dairies going through receiverships. These days, however, he is not just the guy who shows up when a dairy is in dire straights.

Dairymen also call on him to guide them through short-term problems. He has consulted more than 30 operations, where his role ranges from tweaking protocols to training employees to tightening the labor force.

Paul certainly has some stories to tell about how to make dairies more efficient and profitable. How does he do it? Read about one such problem-solving tale from this “fix-it man”, “Should employee management be part of your heat abatement strategy?”

Watch for more from Paul in future issues of Progressive Dairyman. PD

PHOTO
Turning around bankrupt dairies in as few as 30 days has earned Pauly Paul a reputation as a dairy fix-it man. Photo by Peggy Coffeen.

peggy coffeen

Peggy Coffeen
Editor
Progressive Dairyman

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