Assemble your farm’s best team of experts

Posted on October 31, 2023 in Dairy Performance
By Bob Hagenow, Vita Plus sales manager

Here is an unarguable fact:  A high-functioning and effective farm team – with all team members in alignment and focused on achieving established farm goals – has a distinct competitive advantage over a farm that operates without a team.

A farm team can be defined as a group of farm managers, employees, and outside experts who come together to generate quality information and engage in high-level dialogue, leading to educated decisions that move the farm forward on a path for long-term success.  I’ve had the privilege of working with many high-functioning farm teams, and the following three attributes have proven essential to the team’s effectiveness.

  1. Confident, not arrogant.  Great contributing team members know their craft and are competent at what they do.  They are confident in making recommendations within their area of expertise, but not in a manner that is seen as arrogant.  These team members also are open to feedback for improvement – whether that is personal improvement, improvement in their area or improvement of the farm.
  2. Listening.  Effective team members are very astute at listening with the intent to understand and not just listening with the intent to respond and hear themselves talk.
  3. Focused on the big picture.  People who understand that the objectives of the team outweigh their individual objectives also serve teams well.  As the old cliché goes, “There is no I in TEAM.”

Internal experts on your farm team

You probably can identify employees on your farm in roles who have the attributes listed and who want to contribute to the farm’s progress.  They are closest to the work and processes of your farm.  Tap into this pool as often as it makes sense.

Similarly, your middle managers should possess the attributes needed to contribute to a highly functioning team.  If they don’t, ask why and supply the coaching or resources for them to understand the concept and the value of being a contributing member of your team.

External experts on your farm team

When it comes to external experts, in almost every situation, a nutritionist, veterinarian, reproductive specialist, agronomist and financial consultant/banker should be on your extended team, as these areas of expertise are often the most crucial areas of focus for the farm.

Call on other experts when needed

Specific challenges or opportunities arise on a farm in which additional team members or resources will help move the farm forward.  For example, I can think of times when the hoof trimmer was brought in for hoof health or locomotion issues and was instrumental in resolving the issues.

Maintaining a high-functioning team

There is a practical size of the core team to make sure time and resources are used wisely and effectively.  Large groups can be unwieldy and hard to keep focused.  In addition, every farm team has a unique culture that will develop and change over time as members join and leave the team.  Owners and leaders are responsible for monitoring the farm team’s culture and keeping it healthy, positive, and productive.

The amount of progress that can be made over the long term with high-functioning farm teams is indeed significant and gives that business a distinct competitive advantage.

This article was originally written for the July 2023 issue of Progressive Dairy.

Category: Business and economics
Dairy Performance
Employee management