It looks like things are getting downright serious in the dairy business. As I visit my clients around the country and field their phone calls and questions, there's a feeling that the 2009 economic situation in our business is going to be one the biggest challenges we've experienced in our careers. There's a mammoth financial hurricane approaching and the eye is headed for almost everyone's dairy sooner or later.
So what can we do? Unless your crystal ball told you to book your milk for 2009 about $6.00 - $8.00 ago, there's probably not much you can do to make 2009 a profitable year. But what can we do to survive?
My advice to my clients is to simplify. Get down to basics when it comes to feeding and management. Bring your management team together to discuss strategies.
If I've done my job right, I should be recommending the most efficient rations, whether the dairy economy is good or bad. But I'm going over all the rations to look for any missed opportunities. I'm also recommending "walk around management”. What I mean is getting out and walking around the entire operation to observe what's going on and looking for opportunities for improvement such as:
- cleaning water troughs
- reducing feed shrink
- checking mixing and feeding routines and procedures
- checking scale accuracy
- mixer wagon cleaning procedures
- minimizing feed refusals
- silage face management
- transition cow management
- culling unproductive cows
- "culling” unproductive employees
As difficult as they are, times like this makes us all better managers and business operators. I hope the tough times don't last long, but I know that when the good times return, the survivors will be better equipped to handle the next challenge.
--Rick Lundquist is an independent nutrition and management consultant based in Duluth, Minn. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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