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Use of dairy advisory teams as a tool for improvement.

L. A. Holden



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Use of dairy advisory teams as a tool for improvement.
L. A. Holden*. The Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA.

The complexity of dairy farm businesses mean that owners need to have expertise in many different areas, including crop and dairy production, herd health, workforce, financial and business management. Most dairy producers rely heavily on farm advisors for information, advice and help with problem solving. Sometimes that advice and help can result in conflicting information. Dairy advisory teams are one business tool that allow producers to bring all their advisors together on a regular basis to sort conflicting information and move forward successfully. The objective of this project was to evaluate the impact of dairy advisory teams on farms and the measure the extent of involvement from farm advisors. Written surveys were mailed to 104 dairy producers using teams and 262 farm advisors working with at least 1 of the 104 teams. Response rate was 73 of 104 or 70.2% for dairy producers and 132 or 262 or 50.4% for farm advisors. After the first year of using a team, dairy producers (n-58) indicated that the success rate for areas targeted for improvement was 81.1% for record keeping and use of farm records for decision making, 68.3% for increased milk production and 66% for improved nutrition or reduction in feed costs. Some other targeted areas had less than 60% rate of success. Before the use of a dairy advisory team, only 15.5% of dairy producers felt that regular communication with advisors was important compared with 63.2% after using the team. Farm advisor responses indicated that 64% of their teams had 5 to 6 members, and a majority (61.40%) of advisors spent between 10 and 40 h per year working with a team. When asked about satisfaction with milk production and cash flow, nearly half of the dairy producers were “not satisfied” before team use but less than 10% indicated “not satisfied” after use of the team. Farm advisor satisfaction with communication increased from 23.1% before the team to 82.9% after the use of the team. Well managed dairy advisory teams can be a sound business tool for improving communication among farm advisors and for making positive on-farm changes in targeted areas.

Keywords: team problem solving, dairy management, farm advisors.