By Jakob Vogel B.Sc (Agr.)
The wonderful world of benchmarking. As a producer, you can easily go down the metaphoric “rabbit hole” when you start to compare yourself to the neighbour, or even comparing yourself to posts you may see on various social media groups. The trouble is; when did you last ask yourself one of the following questions:
- What do I want?
- What is my goal?
- Is this goal achievable/realistic?
In most business models, financial institutions, accountants, and business planners will ask a similar line of questions:
- What are your profit projections for year one, year five, etc.?
- What is your contingency/transition plan?
- What do you want to achieve out of your business?
Unfortunately, sometimes the answers you get (either by answering these questions or by discussing these answers with your advisors); the hard truth hits and you fall into questioning every aspect of the business and can quickly become discouraged and overwhelmed.
I want to start off by saying that comparing yourself to others is not a bad thing! However, I will say, it can be dangerous, especially when you yourself do not have a set goal or target in mind. Through research and industry reports, there are benchmarks for almost every aspect of a dairy farm, and the list quickly becomes novel. Here is a few just to show you the tip of the iceberg:
As you quickly graze over the above-mentioned list of benchmarks, you most likely have one of two possible reactions:
- Realizing the iceberg is huge; wow! There is a lot here – but what about…
- Realizing you may not have targets at your farm; how many sick calves are too many?
Both questions are great! It means that you can reach for the sky while setting targets for yourself. Before you start deciding on targets and areas to work on, go back to the first couple of questions that were asked and think about them; what do you want? What is your goal? Essentially – what will make you happy, profitable and sustainable?
Every farm has a different management style, and with that different passions that drive them. Based on these passions, your goal setting can become quite easy:
- I want to increase my farm profits;
- I want to improve animal health;
- I want to build a new barn; and
- I want to have more time with my family.
These are some of the goals that I hear when working with producers. What we now need to dig into is why, and what is the target that says, “we did it”. It is okay to change the target, but rather than “I want to build a new barn” maybe, the goal is actually, “I want to improve longevity of the herd, and building a new facility in the next five years that will encourage the next generation.”
Or for another example, rather than “I want to increase my farm profit” the goal is; I am currently making $6,500 in return over feed, per cow, per year, and I want to hit $7,000 because this will allow me to afford the boat that I have always wanted.”
So, with that, I challenge you to refine the scope and elaborate your goals, base your goals on the reality of your current situation and use reliable benchmarks. Bring these goals to your farm team to start working on solutions that will get you there within the desired timeframe.