By MAGGIE SCHUETTE-VOSS
A new state-funded tactic to revitalize Minnesota's dairy industry is taking place. It is called the Dairy Farm Advisory Team Project. It is a cooperative effort of the Minnesota Extension Service, Minnesota state colleges and universities, and other partners in the dairy industry.
In the program, dairy diagnostic teams work one-on-one with individual farmers to try to increase their profitability.
David Wesen, of the Carver County extension service said the diagnostic team is composed of several experts dairy farmers normally rely on - veterinarian, creamery field representative, nutritionist, financial advisor and others.
"The team provides another set of eyes," Wesen said. "Farmers are busy and they don't often get to look around other farms. A team can see things they know have become problems at other farms and set up a solutions."
The program has several objectives: improve one-on-one education and technology transfer for dairy farmers, train local team members, improve the profitability and sustainability of local dairy farms, and identify potential industry support.
The annual cost to participate in the program is $1,500 per year per farm. A grant from the state legislature reduces the cost for the individual farmer to $500 for the first year. Many agricultural professionals are donating a considerable time commitment.
Participants will receive a personal dairy farm advisory team, a complete analysis of the dairy farm by the team, financial assistance for services, education, or other expenses recommended by the team, help in setting up goals and a goal monitoring system and follow up visits and written reports on a monthly basis by the team coordinator.
To participate in the program, farmers are required to: plan to be in the dairy business for five years, be willing to make management changes based on the recommendations of the team, be enrolled in a farm business management program that uses tools such as FINPACK, and be enrolled in a production management programs such as DHIA.
To enroll in the program, interested farmers should send their name, address, telephone number, total acres, number of cows, number of workers on the farm, and why he/she wants to be selected for the program to: Gerald Steuernagel, University of Minnesota, 101 Haecker Hall, 1364 Eckles Ave., St. Paul, MN 55108-6120.
Another program to assist dairy farmers is the Dairy Profitability Enhancement Program (DPHP). It is coordinated by David Wesen.
The program is available to dairy farmers in McLeod, Carver, and Wright counties.
The goal of the program is to increase the profitability of herds enrolled in the program. It is a cooperative effort of the Carver County Dairy Initiative Core Team, milk plants, Dairy Leaders' Roundtable, agricultural professionals, Carver County Extension and dairy farm families.
To help cover the costs, the DPHP received grants from the Dairy Leaders' Roundtable for startup costs and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture for growth. The DPHP executive committee has determined the program should be self sustaining and cover its administrative costs. The cost of the program is shared by the farm family since they receive the most benefits.
The cost for the program is $500 for the initial diagnostic visit, follow-up review and three months of monitoring. The cost will be 12 cents/cwt. per month thereafter with a minimum of $100 per month and a maximum of $200 per month.
The type of farm family who could us the DPHP varies. The DPHP could benefit families that are going through a transition to new farming procedures and their potential problems, farm families transferring ownership, farms where profitability has plateaued or are losing money or farm families that want to increase already high profitability.
A farmer who participate in the DPHP is assigned a coordinator who will help: identify, select and organize the farm diagnostic team, provide dairy diagnostic training for farm families and farm diagnostic team members, organize an initial farm diagnostic visit and follow-up session with the diagnostic team, identify key opportunities for the farm business with the diagnostic team, develop a list of opportunities and action plans, keep the farm and team members current by monitoring progress and reporting to team members with written evaluations/reports, schedule farm meetings for the diagnostic team or part of the team and adjust goals and plans as appropriate.