New Year, New Plan

New Year, New Plan

Dairy farmers encouraged to set measurable goals for 2012.

Anyone that keeps track of days on the calendar knows that the holiday season is directly upon us.  This means the year 2011 is coming to a close and 2012 is only a few days away.  Now for some producers, this may be a good feeling and they are ready to turn the page and take on the New Year.  For others, they may be looking for a little more time to wrap up a few tasks they were hoping to get done this year.  Where ever you may be at regarding your dairy operation, this is the time to plan and be ready for 2012.

As a dairy farm manager starts planning for the 2012 year, there will need to be new goals set for the operation.  Setting goals helps make the planning process worthwhile to assure the plan is addressing the objectives desired.  Then, an action plan for each goal needs to be written down that helps describe how those goals are going to be accomplished. 

There are several ways to think about goals. A goal can be something as simple as making sure to take at least one week away from the dairy operation during the year.  Goals can also be very complex such as lowering a herd's somatic cell count or decreasing the percentage of calves treated for scours.  Simple goals are going to only take a short time to put a plan in place and to see the end result.  For complex goals, it could take a great deal of time and commitment from everyone involved in the operation.  For example, to reduce the number of calves that are being treated for scours the solution is going to have multiple levels of application to get there.  First, a manager could start with assessing the calf hutches or stalls and working to make sure they are staying clean enough. Then, put protocols in place to maintain the conditions that are always acceptable.  The next level that may need to be worked on is newborn calf protocol as some management changes could help get them off to a healthier start.  There may be other changes to consider and this list of management practices needed can continue to grow until the dairy manager feels the goal has been reached.

Many have heard of a SMART goal. It is a great way to help get started writing goals for a new year.  SMART is an acronym for goal setters that means the following:

S -   Specific

M -   Measureable

A -   Attainable

R -   Relevant

T -   Time-bond

For each goal that is written for the dairy business, ask the question for each of the letters in the acronym (is it specific?, is it measureable?, etc.).  This will help to further assess and refine the goal and make it more meaningful.  This also increases the chance of the goal being successful within the designated time frame set to reach that goal. 

There are other items that should be considered when planning next year's goals. 

* When setting goals, everyone that is going to be affected by the goal or involved to help attain that goal, should be included in the writing of that goal. 

* Be sure that goals are written down.  This is the number one reason for goals not being successful. 

* It is best to hang the goals in a place that everyone is going to see them.  For most dairy operations, that is going to be in the milk room or break room. 

* Last, revisit the goals several times a year, evaluate the progress for each of them and determine if the goals still remain relevant.  Changing a goal is not a form of failure; it is recognizing that a situation has changed or it was not a true fit for the concern that needed to be addressed. 

For dairy farmers, looking ahead and planning for the future is something that many just do without realizing that they are even practicing it.  However, a good manager that is planning for the success of their operation, involving others and writing down a plan must not be avoided.  This is important to make the best use of everyone's time each and every day.  Having goals in place communicates to everyone involved what needs to be done and what the plan is to get things accomplished.  Having them will help to make the dairy operation more successful in the end. 

Looking at 2012, there are going to be some challenges. Yet with planning, they can also provide some great opportunities.  Take this time now and plan so you will be able to reap the benefits.

-By Craig Roerick, University of Minnesota Extension

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