Step away for a better view
When you wear many hats on your dairy, it may seem difficult – or even impossible – to spend any time away. But taking a few days to attend an industry event can provide several benefits:
- Different perspectives
One of the main reasons to step away from your farm and attend an industry event is to give you a different perspective of your business. Getting away can often give you a picture of your farm from the “30,000-foot level” as compared to the “on-the-ground” picture you see during day-to-day chores. Looking at a situation from a different perspective helps you take note of more factors and potential benefits available and can help you make the best decisions for your farm.
- Financial benchmarking
Some industry meetings address your farm’s financial status. This could be a vital meeting to attend if you have not completed a balance sheet or done a cost-of-production analysis in a while.
- Planning for the future
Other meetings focus on succession planning and goal setting. If you are at a crossroads concerning the future of your dairy, a planning meeting can really help you define future wishes and options and construct a plan to get there.
- Practical learning
Still other meetings cover a wide range of topics from current trends to ag advocacy to herd management techniques to cow comfort issues. No matter what type of meeting you attend, it is important to determine what knowledge you need to acquire, what information you want to take home to study further, and what resources you may need to have in hand to help move forward.
Another great benefit of getting away is to recharge and refocus. A different daily routine, an enlightening conversation, an optimistic person or viewpoint, or finding a new industry peer are all great ways to gain energy and leave an event with an extra bounce in your step.
How to do it
The first step – and arguably the hardest – is to make the mental commitment to get away and realize the farm will be there when you return. It can seem overwhelming to plan for help; organize the details of feed, equipment, and emergency plans; have provisional plans in case of changing weather; and then make all the travel arrangements. Just remember, the benefits of stepping away make the planning worthwhile.
When it comes to finding help, put together a group of people who can be trusted to accomplish the established routines successfully in your absence. Retired farm operators, people in the community who grew up on farms and are now in other businesses, high school students looking for training opportunities in agriculture, former owners of the farm, and hired services are all possibilities for putting together this team.
It is ideal that your team has both written protocols and at least one opportunity to go through the routines with you in person. Certain tasks are best communicated by a demonstration or the chance to answer questions from the team.
Once you go through the effort of making plans and getting to the meeting, it is important to limit distractions to ensure you can fully engage. Sure, we need to stay connected in case of emergency, but the whole idea is to be in the moment, get those benefits mentioned, and find that different perspective.
It can make a difference
Though it wasn’t a dairy event, this reminds me of a personal experience from a couple years ago. The gentleman who purchased my family’s home farm milked about 40 registered cows and wanted to travel out-of-state for a wedding. Knowing the operation from years ago, he asked me, along with his sister and his brother-in-law, to step in for the weekend. We met as a team the weekend before his departure, went through all the protocols and asked our questions for the numerous “it depends” situations.
Though a bit apprehensive, the owner went to the wedding. When he returned to find everything doing well, he had a smile on his face I will always remember…one of refreshment and happiness. He had connected with family and friends and had a new perspective on his life after hearing about others’ journeys.
If you are looking to see something in a different light, gain new ideas for your farm, meet new industry peers, find a new way of doing things in the future, or you just want to recharge yourself, commit to stepping away form the farm to attend an industry event. With good planning, the farm will be there when you return, and you may just have that new perspective you’ve been needing.
This article was originally written for the February 7, 2020 issue of Progressive Dairy. Click here for the full article.
About the author: Bob Hagenow is a sales manager with Vita Plus and has been an employee owner for more than 25 years. He grew up in eastern Wisconsin on a registered Holstein dairy farm and actively participated in 4-H and FFA. He attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison to earn his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. In addition to his nutrition and farm consultation responsibilities, Hagenow is involved in training and recruiting at Vita Plus. He is actively involved in numerous organizations and is well networked throughout the dairy industry.
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