When I think of farming, I think of a few things. Feeding cows, planting and harvesting corn, baling hay. They, and most of the jobs I do around the farm, all relate to production. Most of you will agree that is one of the big reasons we farm -- we like being around animals, we like being on the land, we don't like numbers.
But I was lucky enough to get the chance to realize that even if we don't like the numbers, we all like making more money.
The Ontario Dairy Youth Business Management School was a chance for 40 young dairy farmers from across Ontario and even Nova Scotia, to come together and learn how the best in the industry have become the best. One of the most positive things about this school - was the fact that every one of the top producers was very open, and obviously wanted us to be just as good as they are.
So what did the 40 of us take from this? That fixing little problems around your farm can mean big returns. One number quoted - was that a 50 cow herd could make an additional 45 thousand dollars by moving from an average herd to a top herd. That is a significant amount of money that we can no longer afford to leave on the table. (More on that idea next week)
Here's how: Look at the dirty details of your farm. When you simply look at the amount of money a herd has coming in and out -- it is easy to say 'We need more milk' or 'We need to spend less'. But until you get into details, it is hard to improve. Simply setting a goal of 'We want to produce 10% more milk in the next 6 months' is a tough goal to acheive since there are a million factors that can effect production. Looking at each of those million factors - and improving them one at a time - is how you are going to produce more milk and cut your costs. Are you having trouble with mastitis? How about getting heifers in calf? Maybe getting silage off at the right stage of growth is tough to do? If you drill down to single issues - and fix them first - you might be surprised to see how much your milk cheque will grow by.
After all - if you just get bigger because you think you can make more money, all your problems will only get bigger as well. If you get better first - you may be able to find more money in your farm than you thought was there.
Note: This school was put on by Ontario Holstein and 4-H Ontario. The thought is that if this school was successful - they'd begin schools for other commodities as well. Keep an eye out for a business management school covering your commodity -- because in my view, this was incredibly successful.