Archive for February, 2009

Is it time to change the way you feed your cows?

Manage the rumen to find more profit

By Scott Burditt
Rations are going under the microscope, literally. With 2009 expected to be a difficult economic year, protecting micro-thin margins is crucial. Producers and nutritionists are turning to microbiology to help lower feed costs.    

Dairy producer Bradley Johnston, of Tap Root Dairy, Fletcher, N.C. puts it more bluntly. “Starting now, I believe we’re going to see the worst six months the dairy industry has ever seen. By next January, I think we’ll see a million fewer cows in production,” he said. 


North Carolina dairy producer Bradley Johnston said “micro” margins require managing dairy rations at the “mircro” level.

North Carolina dairy producer Bradley Johnston said “micro” margins require managing dairy rations at the “mircro” level.

To help compensate, Johnston and others have fine-tuned rations and herd health to the micro level. More herd managers are finding a focus on rumen microbiology –- specifically, managing rumen bacteria — can reduce costs.  In this economic environment, these tiny things can be a big help.

Managing rumen bacteria at the micro level lowers feed costs by enabling the cow to produce her own protein and, therefore, reduce dependence on purchased proteins, while safely increasing carbohydrates. 

“You’re simply taking advantage of the role bacteria play in the rumen,” said Mike Biese, nutritionist at Intensive Dairy Care, Green Bay, Wis. “Adding the correct types of bacteria will affect rumen fermentation and can offer a more profitable way of feeding cows.”

In Johnston’s case, he decided to make a change after spending a significant amount of money to overcome herd health challenges – only to see things worse. 

“Getting started on this kind of diet, which goes against what we’ve always been told, is a matter of understanding microbiology and realizing that feeding more carbohydrates is a good thing,” Johnston said. “We went from running an 18% -18.5% protein ration to a 16%-16.25%. We went from 24% starch to 32% starch, and we increased nonfiber carbohydrates from the mid 30%s to about 44%. And we quit worrying so much about our forage-to-grain ratio, because it wasn’t a problem. All in all, using microbiology we were able to cut feed costs and our cows are healthier.”

Dairy microbiology works

Tom Nauman, head nutritionist for Hoober Feeds, in Gordonville, Penn., said nutritionists know that when they create a favorable rumen environment for bacteria, bacteria pay the favor back by providing nutrients cows will use for growth, production and reproduction.


Pennsylvania dairy nutritionist Tom Nauman (right), discusses a low-protein dairy ration with Lynn Royer, Blossomelle Holsteins, Elizabethtown, Pa.

Pennsylvania dairy nutritionist Tom Nauman (right), discusses a low-protein dairy ration with Lynn Royer, Blossomelle Holsteins, Elizabethtown, Pa.

“Nutritionists live and die by microbiology,” said Nauman. “We depend on bacteria to supply a great deal of nutrients. Because of the duties bacteria perform, we can maximize use of economical feeds. Corn silage, dry hay crops and so forth work just fine because of the way bacteria in a cow’s digestive system act.” 

To function well, the cow’s rumen needs food, proper temperature and a balanced pH level. These three elements, when in balance, create a rumen environment where bacteria flourish and do their jobs in a manner beneficial to the cow. 

A common problem occurs with highly digestible, or “rich” feeds. Feeding dairy cows these so-called “fast” feeds to improve productivity can compromise the rumen environment by inadvertently dropping pH. 

According to Biese, “Fast feeds can cause a buildup of lactic acid, which drops rumen pH. The drop in rumen pH causes rumen acidosis, which leads to lots of health issues.”

Nauman agreed. “When we feed dairy cows to improve productivity, we also can upset the rumen environment by dropping the pH,” he said. “But, now we’re able to counteract change in the rumen by feeding specific bacteria that consume some of these pH-lowering nutrients and turn them back into usable energy for the animal.”

Studies conducted by Priority IAC, Inc., a dairy microbiology company in Manitowoc, Wis., founded by Richard Breunig, a former farm manager, show that, when adding the correct types of bacteria, you can feed much higher levels of carbohydrates for energy and keep pH balanced, thus maintaining cow health. (See Figure 1.)

Research trials conducted by an independent ag biotechnology studied ruminal pH on seven commercial dairy herds totaling more than 11,000 cows. The numbers in the chart above represent average pH of 148 cows fed high amounts of rapidly fermentable carbohydrates following a bacterial supplement program that contained only genomic-tested bacteria identified for specific purposes. The trials utilized oro-ruminal probes.

Research trials conducted by an independent ag biotechnology studied ruminal pH on seven commercial dairy herds totaling more than 11,000 cows. The numbers in the chart above represent average pH of 148 cows fed high amounts of rapidly fermentable carbohydrates following a bacterial supplement program that contained only genomic-tested bacteria identified for specific purposes. The trials utilized oro-ruminal probes.



More carbohydrates, lower costs

Carbohydrates are the key energy source for rumen bacteria and are essential for bacterial growth. A rumen with a high population of bacteria will provide lots of energy through volatile fatty acid production. It also will create significant amounts of microbial protein, lessening dependence on purchased protein.

“Over the last 10 or 15 years, the nutrition world has come to be afraid of carbohydrates,” said Nauman. “We tended to think carbohydrates were the culprit. But, we’ve discovered the culprit is too much protein.”

This is exactly what Wisconsin’s Brown Star Farms, Gillett, Wis., discovered in a roundabout way. They had been adding a specific type of bacteria to the ration with what seemed like pretty good results. Then, one year, a dry spring followed by a lot of August rain resulted in phenomenal corn. With corn so rich, the cows suffered loose manure. 

“At the time, our nutritionist suggested we back down on the corn,” said Matt Bjelland, co-owner of Brown Star Farms. “We kept taking out corn silage and adding haylage, but the problem only got worse. We needed to change the ration if we were going to use microbiology to its best advantage. So we reversed course, putting silage back to where it was, and adding five pounds more corn than what we were doing originally. Within a few days, manure stiffened.” 

Bjelland said reducing corn and corn silage was creating too much soluble protein, which led to loose manure. The problem wasn’t too much corn or too much silage, it was too much protein. They made the problem worse by dropping corn and silage levels.

“Now,” said Bjelland, “our milk urea nitrogen (or MUN) typically runs 8 to 9, where previously it was about 12.” 

Bjelland said his cows are getting a lot more out of what they eat. “With the bacteria we’re adding, the cows are manufacturing their own protein from the high starch and carbohydrate levels we feed, so we’re buying less.” 

Do dairy producers find microbiology intimidating? Producers Johnston and Bjelland think it can be, but add that, once you understand how bacteria work, changing the way you feed your cows makes sense. 

“You’re not really feeding the cow as much as you’re feeding the bacteria in the rumen,” Johnston said. “Cows eat to sustain life. Rumen bugs have to eat, too, but for a different reason. When you look at it that way, microbiology is understandable.” 

Bjelland believes that sometimes people think microbiology sounds too complex and potentially risky. “When we first discussed the ration with our nutritionist, he says he wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if he recommended it, thinking the cows would fall over dead from the high starch and carbohydrate levels. Now, he’s recommending the ration to others.”







‘Jersey friendly’ hoof trimming chute

The Jersey Comfort Chute, modeled after Comfort Hoof Care Inc’s H-Series Comfort Chute, will be available this spring.  The Jersey Chute features Comfort Hoof Care Inc.’s Accu-trim Leg Restraint, a specially modified, fully hydraulic automatic headgate, and an adjustable hydraulic platform, raising the cow to the optimal working height. The Jersey Chute provides maximum comfort for smaller breeds, restraining cows easily and safely, minimizing the chance of stress or injury.  For more information, contact: Melanie Burgi, Comfort Hoof Care Inc., e-mail:; phone:  608-356-3834; or visit

Dairy industry consortium launches initiative to reduce on-farm costs and increase revenue stream

Initiative helps producers meet consumer demand for ‘green’ products

The dairy industry unveiled a major initiative to help reduce on-farm expenses while meeting a growing consumer demand for environmentally friendly products. The industrywide effort focuses on the fluid milk value chain — from farm to table. It includes a series of projects that will reduce energy, increase efficiency and help dairy producers tap into new sources of income.

The announcement was made by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, an organization bringing together leaders from across the dairy value chain. The industrywide group includes producer organizations, dairy cooperatives, processors and manufacturers such as Hilmar Cheese Co., Leprino Foods, Dairylea Cooperative Inc., Anderson Erickson Dairy, Land O’Lakes and Dairy Farmers of America.

As part of the initiative, 12 project plans were unveiled that offer a range of solutions for operations large and small across all industry segments. Some of these projects take advantage of existing practices, while others are technological innovations that require longer time frames and financial commitments for research and development.

“During these difficult economic times, it is especially important to address both short- and long-term solutions that ensure the health and strength of our industry,” said Thomas Gallagher, chief executive officer of the Innovation Center and Dairy Management Inc.™ (DMI), which manages the national dairy checkoff program on behalf of the nation’s dairy producers. “By identifying practical and effective methods to increase business value and reduce dairy’s carbon footprint, we ensure the viability and sustainability of U.S. dairy producers and the dairy industry,” he added.

The project plans have the potential to create a conservatively estimated $238 million in business value and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 3.2 million metric tons — equivalent to taking more than half a million cars off the road every year.

Solutions include identifying and implementing energy-saving best practices across all value chain segments, removing barriers to the adoption of methane digesters, and implementing pilot programs to test alternatives to thermal pasteurization for raw milk and reduced-temperature clean-in-place technologies.

“Consumers increasingly demand nutritious dairy products produced in an environmentally sustainable way. The U.S. dairy industry intends to meet their needs,” said Gallagher. “Through this sustainability initiative, the dairy industry continues its legacy of producing high-quality nutritious foods that enrich and sustain life.”

Many modern dairy practices, including on-farm technological advances, have already dramatically reduced dairy’s carbon footprint by lowering energy and water use, increasing milk production and developing more efficient nutrient management programs.

“Sustainability isn’t a new concept,” said Bob Foster of Foster Brothers Farm in Vermont. “It’s about using fewer resources, and using resources that are sustainable. It makes practical business sense.”

Foster has continuously assessed his dairy farm’s energy usage and environmental impact for more than 25 years. In that time, he launched a successful composting business that is almost as profitable as his dairy farm, and has implemented technologies that now power his farm.

“The entire industry has long understood the importance of protecting natural resources,” said Jerry Kozak, president and chief executive officer of the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF). “The effort to further reduce the dairy industry’s carbon footprint will not only identify ways to help improve efficiencies on the farm, but also show our commitment to meet consumer demand and be good stewards of the land.”

The Innovation Center engaged the University of Arkansas Applied Sustainability Center to conduct the first-ever comprehensive survey to accurately measure its current carbon footprint. The science-based life cycle assessment (LCA) of GHG emissions across the U.S. fluid milk value chain will be submitted for publication later this year.

“The LCA measures GHG emissions from feed, to milk production and processing systems, to consumption and package disposal,” said Mike McCloskey, who chairs the sustainability initiative for the Innovation Center and is owner and president of Fair Oaks Farms in Fair Oaks, Ind. “This process validates dairy’s carbon footprint and helps dairy industry stakeholders identify new best management practices to ensure the long-term viability of U.S. dairy.”

The commitment to a reduction in GHG emissions was first announced in the summer of 2008, when more than 250 stakeholders gathered at the first Sustainability Summit to develop a reduction roadmap. Now, more than 500 stakeholders, including producers, processors, manufacturers and retailers, as well as other dairy industry experts, are helping the industry and Innovation Center achieve this sustainability vision. Overall, the industry goal is to reduce fluid milk’s GHG emissions by 25 percent by 2020.

“Our goal is to help dairy companies to thrive for generations while increasing the health and well-being of consumers, communities and the planet,” said Connie Tipton, president and chief executive officer of the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA). “This industrywide sustainability initiative offers an outstanding opportunity for all members of the dairy industry.”


Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy provides a forum for the entire dairy industry to work together to offer consumers the products they want — when and where they want them — and increase dairy sales through pre-competitive collaboration. The Innovation Center combines the collective resources of the industry to provide consumers with nutritious dairy products and foster industry innovation for healthy people, healthy products and a healthy planet. The Board of Directors for the Innovation Center represents leaders of more than 30 key U.S. producer organizations, dairy cooperatives, processors and manufacturers. The Innovation Center is supported and staffed by Dairy Management Inc.™ For more information, please contact

Good on the top line, but …


Down slightly from 2007, 2008 milk prices and gross income per cow were still strong. But higher costs reduced net income, and the year ended on a downslide, portending a rough first half of 2009.

By Dave Natzke

It’ll be hard to classify 2008 as the “good old days,” but on the gross income side of the ledger, it wasn’t bad.

Using USDA’s monthly milk production and price estimates, DairyBusiness Communications editors calculated the “average” gross income from milk sales generated annually by an “average” cow, based on “average” production and “average” all-milk price, by state (see Table 1).

The “average” U.S. cow produced 20,396 lbs. of milk in 2008, up from 20,204 lbs. in 2007. USDA’s preliminary 2008 all-milk price was $18.32/cwt., down 81¢/cwt from 2007. The result: a $128 decline in gross income per cow, with an estimated $3,737 generated in milk sales in 2008, compared to $3,865 in 2007.

Net income will take a bigger hit. USDA’s monthly Cost of Production report indicates costs for all feed (purchased and homegrown for all cows and replacements) in 23 states increased about $2.89/cwt. of milk sold in 2008 compared to 2007.

How does 2008 gross income compare to other years? Average gross income per cow was $2,574 in 2006; $2,976 in 2005; and $3,050 in 2004.

“Averages” tend to level out peaks and valleys, but individual state information provides some remarkable disparity. For example, among the 23 major dairy states, there’s more than a $1,530 spread between the state with the lowest gross milk income per cow in 2008 (Kentucky, at $2,693) compared to the highest (Michigan, at $4,223). 

What’s ahead

Looking ahead to 2009, milk production per cow should remain fairly steady, but USDA’s all-milk price forecast (as of Feb. 17) is in a range of just $10.95-$11.85/cwt., although Chicago Mercantile Exchange Class III futures prices are somewhat higher. Thus, 2009 average gross income per cow could drop below $2,500. Milk Income Loss Contract program payments will offset some of the decline. 


Find monthly USDA Milk Production and Ag Prices reports at

For regular production and price updates, visit or


The “average” U.S. cow produced 20,396 lbs. of milk in 2008, up from 20,204 lbs. in 2007. USDA’s preliminary 2008 all-milk price was $18.32/cwt., down 81¢/cwt from 2007. The result: a $128 decline in gross income per cow, with an estimated $3,737 generated in milk sales in 2008, compared to $3,865 in 2007.

The “average” U.S. cow produced 20,396 lbs. of milk in 2008, up from 20,204 lbs. in 2007. USDA’s preliminary 2008 all-milk price was $18.32/cwt., down 81¢/cwt from 2007. The result: a $128 decline in gross income per cow, with an estimated $3,737 generated in milk sales in 2008, compared to $3,865 in 2007.

3/09 Marketing: The roller coaster of emotion-driven marketing decisions

By Matt Mattke

As milk prices roller coaster higher and lower, so do the emotions of dairy producers.  The more extreme prices rally the more bullish the emotions; and the more extreme prices drop, the more bearish the emotions. 

There is a tendency for the majority of producers to become victims of what is known as the recency bias: the bias that whatever has worked lately is the thing to do now and in the future. 

After a price collapse, the mentality sets in that forward selling milk worked lately so that is the mindset adopted going forward.  As soon as the market starts to rally, many producers are quick to sell because they recall the pain of the lows and do not want to experience that ever again. 

That approach can work for maybe a year or two, and if so, that establishes a habit of continually selling on minor bounces with no regard for the bigger picture cycle.  Then all of a sudden, prices explode, the bull run is on, and sales that initially looked good become further and further behind the market.  The producer regrets ever making the sales and then the new bias takes over and a new mindset is established:  forward selling milk hasn’t worked lately, it cost me money, so I am not forward selling anymore milk ever again. 

Then prices hit their peak and collapse and the pain of low prices is felt all over again.  At this point the emotional bull/bear cycle is complete and starts anew with the producer again looking to what worked recently, forward selling milk, and decides that is the approach to take going forward.  Then again on the first rally the producer sells quickly and it works for a while. 

As a comfort in selling is developed and the total bearish mindset takes hold the market explodes higher and once again milk sales that initially looked good are now behind the market and the producer stops selling and adopts a take-the-market price stance just in time for another price collapse. 

Fortunately, not every producer does this, or does it on all of their milk, but far too much milk is marketed as described above.  Emotions take hold and override logic, discipline and strategy.

Due to the historic drop, and the below average milk prices currently being experienced, it is well worth taking the time to review how marketing decisions are made.  A $10.00/cwt. drop and $9.00/cwt. milk has a lot of producers that sold no milk for 2009 feeling tremendous emotional and real monetary pain.  This pain makes many producers susceptible to making huge marketing mistakes in the months and years ahead, but the good news is that these major marketing mistakes can be avoided.  Perfection in marketing is an unrealistic expectation, but doing a good job of marketing is not. 

You’ve all likely heard the term “the trend is your friend.” When a market is rallying let it rally and don’t stand in front of it, but when a market is dropping sell and keeping selling.  Two strategies that can empower producers and let them gain control of their marketing are put options, and “following the market with stops.” 

If milk prices rally a little and a producer really feels the need for price protection, buy put options.  These will provide a floor for your milk, but leave your upside wide open. 

In addition to, or in lieu of put options, a producer can use a “follow the market with stops” strategy that establishes trigger points at levels of price support.  If that price support (stop point) is broken then start forward selling milk.  Otherwise, let the up trending prices run higher and wait to sell.

As the price rallies, establish another higher stop point and if that is broken forward sell more milk.  If the stops are never broken and prices keep rallying you will not need to make any sales.  In such an instance you let the trend be your friend, while still being strategic and having a strategy in place to start forward selling milk in the event prices started falling.  You protected your downside risk while keeping your upside opportunities open. 

After a period of unprofitability, that extra profit margin will be welcome and much appreciated.



Contact Matt Mattke, Market360® adviser at Stewart-Peterson, via e-mail:, phone: 800-334-9779 or visit

3/09 People Power: Your leadership determines the success of your dairy

By Bob Milligan

What do the following persons have in common?

  • Barack Obama
  • Phil Jackson
  • Bob Stallman
  • Kris and Dave Carpenter
  • Yourself

The answer is that they are leaders.  Barack Obama is President.  Phil Jackson is coach of the Los Angeles Lakers professional basketball team.  Bob Stallman is president of the American Farm Bureau.  Kris and Dave Carpenter are parents of two children.  You, as a reader of this magazine, are likely an owner and certainly a leader in a dairy farm or agribusiness.

The message is that we are all leaders.  But is leadership important?  The answer for the first three is obvious, but what about Kris and Dave Carpenter?  Think about the difference between great success and failure for Kris and Dave as leaders of their family: a harmonious, nurturing family environment versus a hostile, destructive environment.

What about you?  Simply put: your leadership of your farm or agribusiness will determine its success or failure.  The purpose of this article is to provide insight as to how you can be a more effective leader of your farm or agribusiness by considering six roles you have as a leader of your farm of agribusiness.  This leadership may well be even more important in this very difficult time.

Think about the captain or commander of a ship.  Similarly you have a crucial role as the captain or commander of your dairy farm or agribusiness.  The ship’s captain steers a course that stays away from dangers such as shallow or turbulent waters and provides a safe and enjoyable journey; you as the dairy farm leader must steer your business in a direction that avoids being blindsided by changes in the dairy and business environment and provides a financial return to the owners and a great place to work for everyone associated with the business.  Your commander responsibilities include understanding the world around you, setting business direction (compelling vision and strategy), fashioning the culture of the business and establishing the rules the business will live by. 

The leader as conductor. Picture the conductor of a band or an orchestra.  He or she must select the right person for each position – a great drummer may be a poor trumpet player – and then orchestrate exactly when each member plays their part.  Similarly, in your conductor role you must select the right person for each position – a great feeder may be a poor milker.   You also must direct the assignment and flow of people and tasks.  It is the leader’s responsibility to see that each person is assigned the roles and tasks that best match his or her talents, skills, experience and interests.  You “orchestrate” your people to enable you business to prosper.

The leader as team builder.  Think about sports for a second.  Does the team with the most talented players always win?  The answer is “NO.”  Winning sports team must have talent AND they must work together as a team. Team success requires that the totality of the team accomplishments far exceed what the individuals could have accomplished alone.  Teams whether in sports or in business – including a dairy farm – do not succeed by accident.  You, the team leader, must instill in the team a commitment to a common end – vision, goal, outcome – and a team spirit such that they strive to meet both team and individual goals.    

The leader as supervisor and coach.  Leaders soon realize that their success depends on the people they lead.  In your role as supervisor and coach you must nurture the employee’s self motivation, be clear about performance expectations, provide abundant feedback and continually provide opportunities for the employee to develop.

The leader as motivator and cheerleader.  The leader sets the tone and nurtures morale, commitment, and motivation.  The leader is the motivator for the dairy farm or agribusiness’s workforce.  This role requires that the leader be positive, upbeat, and proactive even in this difficult time.  

The leader as promoter and spokesperson.  The leader is the face of your dairy farm or agribusiness to the outside world.  For you this includes your neighbors, member of your community and consumers of your products.  This role is becoming increasingly crucial as environmental, social and political issues become more important.

YOU are a leader!  YOU can be a better leader!  You can be a great leader!  Make plans today increase you success in each of your roles as a dairy farm or agribusiness leader.


• Robert Milligan is senior consultant, Dairy Strategies LLC, and professor emeritus, Cornell University. He can be reached at 888-249-3244, ext. 255, e-mail:

• Milligan conducts LearningEdge webinars on business leadership and management topics. For information, including a list of complimentary webinars, visit

3/09 HUMAN RESOURCES: 5 key areas to boost employee morale

By Felix Soriano

Many of the jobs that your workers do can become monotonous and boring.  Employees may slow their pace, and even start cutting corners.  To make things worse, Hispanic workers may get depressed and homesick, especially during winter.  

It takes more than a bigger paycheck for employees to stay loyal and enthusiastic. How can you create a positive atmosphere  to boost worker morale?  Here are five key areas:

1. Recognize a job well done

2. Get employees involved

3. Show concern and interest 

4. Create a great work environment

5. Respect


1) Recognize a job well done. Employee recognition doesn’t always have to be a formal process.  Some of the best opportunities to build morale are recognizing employees on the spot.  Verbal praise should be given immediately after an employee has completed a great job.  Tangible rewards such as gifts are effective.  Catch an employee doing something right, for example by checking teat end cleanliness during milking, and hand him or her a calling card.
     However you recognize employees’ excellence and hard work, don’t do the same thing every time or it will soon become part of the expected compensation package. Here are other creative ways:

• Bring lunch to your employee at work.  Clearly express in detail the reason why that employee is getting special treatment.

• Write a short thank you note, in the appropriate language, and stick it to his/her paycheck.

• Recognize important dates of immigrant workers’ culture.  Join them for lunch that day.

• Chances are a lot of your Hispanic employees are big soccer fans.  Frequently ask how their favorite team is doing.

• If a nearby dairy farm  also employees Hispanic workers, set up an informal soccer game and start a fun rivalry.

• Have a pizza party for achieving a special team goal.

• Celebrate employees’ birthdays by taking donuts or a cake during the morning or lunch break.

• Take employees to training conferences or set up a formal training program with an outside trainer at the farm. This is a great way to not only recognize good work, but also to keep employees motivated.

• Keep workers entertained during winter.  At a farm that I frequently visit, the owners have foosball and ping pong tables in the tool shed where employees and sometimes owners can spend time off. 

Don’t wait for the big success to praise someone.  Many times a simple pat on the back, giving encouragement for a job well done will go a long way. 


2) Get them involved in their jobs and show them they’re important to the success of the dairy operation.  Help motivate employees by letting them participate in setting job goals and expectations.  Let them have input in how to do their work.  For example:  Ask their opinion on what type of teat dipper should be used or how to reduce somatic cell counts. 


3) Show concern and interest  in your workers as individuals. It doesn’t cost any money and can greatly build employee morale. Expect to spend quite some time coaching, counseling and listening to your workers.  The better you get to know your employees, the sooner you will identify when something is going wrong, when they are upset or when someone is depressed or homesick.  

Don’t be afraid to get involved in the employee’s private life if you feel the person is trying to reach out to you for advice.  Some of my clients worry that Hispanic workers don’t want interference in their private lives. But I often find that people who are hurting appreciate assistance from someone they can communicate with and trust.  When language  is an issue, find an outside source who can speak the language and periodically meet with the workers. 


4) Create a great work environment,  both the physical workplace and the team environment.  The physical place says a lot about the dairy operation’s values and policies. Employees working together as a team are usually more successful and productive.  Promote teamwork by setting common goals and having them work together to achieve those goals. 


5) Respect  employees for who they are as individuals.  Don’t treat everyone the same.  Everyone is different and treating people differently is part of helping them feel unique.  This doesn’t mean that you should have different rules for all the employees.  However, have your staff participate when setting workplace rules and listen to the comments and suggestions they might have.  Also, when making a new rule, it is very important to explain its purpose and enforce it fairly among all workers.  

To make a difference with your employees:

•  Show that you genuinely care about them 

• Actively listen to what they have to say

•  Make your employees feel good about their work

• Excite your employees about doing things that they never considered doing

• Treat people consistently and fairly

• Promote teamwork 

When done right this will result in more inspired, hard working employees who go the extra mile to promote the dairy operation’s success.  



• Felix Soriano owns APN Consulting, a labor management and human resource consulting business in Easton, Pa. Contact him at 610-297-0313 or e-mail





3/09 PROMOTION: New pizzas provide extra sales potential

By Irving Britton 

The current plight of dairy producers across the country has become the source of many headlines in ag publications and much discussion within the dairy community.  The global economic crisis has made the ups and downs of our milk markets more severe than normal.  Every organization serving dairy producers is reviewing ways they can respond to these economic challenges.

Your dairy promotion checkoff organizations are no different.  Those of us who serve as producer board members are making sure our staff is well-informed and doing their part to help.  Promotion’s role is to help maintain and build sales over both the short and long term, and we have strong initiatives in place to do that.  Yet more is required during particularly tough times like this one.  One place we can influence the market short-term is by addressing pizza sales. 

That business, important to us because it represents more than 25% of all cheese sales, has been declining in recent years.  But a new effort is underway with Domino’s Pizza® to promote the launch of six new specialty pizzas that use up to 40% more cheese.  Domino’s is one of the nation’s largest pizza chains. Its unveiling of these pizzas is the first step in a plan to make pizza “new again” to consumers by focusing on cheese.   

You may have already tried one of these pizzas, called “American Legends” because they became available just before the Super Bowl.  However, the real promotion of the pizzas kicked off in early February and will run for six weeks.  The pizzas include:

·       the Honolulu Hawaiian with ham, bacon, pineapple, red peppers, provolone and mozzarella cheeses on a parmesan crust;

·       the Cali Chicken Bacon Ranch with chicken breast, white sauce, bacon, tomatoes, provolone and mozzarella cheeses on a provolone crust;

·       the Pacific Veggie  with red peppers, spinach, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, black olives, feta, mozzarella and provolone cheeses on a parmesan crust;

·       the Memphis BBQ Chicken — Chicken breast, barbeque sauce, onions and parsley with provolone, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses on a cheesy cheddar crust;

·       the Buffalo Chicken with chicken breast, Buffalo hot sauce, onions, parsley, provolone and American chesses on a cheddar crust; and

·       the Philly Cheese Steak with steak, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, provolone and American cheeses on a provolone crust. 

The Legends pizza box says, “We use six legendary cheeses brought to you by America’s Dairy Farmers.  Then we give you 40% more.”  So dairy producers are already connected to the new product, but Midwest Dairy Association is involving dairy farmers in hands-on promotion of the pizza in my own local territory, the St. Louis market.  A radio ad features Fulton, Missouri, dairy farmer Steve Echelmeier, and dairy farmers will help with public relations and other media outreach in the St. Louis metro area.  Radio stations are also being approached to tie in the Legends theme for extra promotion value.  Discussions are underway regarding additional promotional activities for June Dairy Month and other summer consumer events. 

In addition to the St. Louis market that is covered by Midwest Dairy Association, similar efforts are underway in Columbia, S.C., (led by the producer-funded Southeast United Dairy Industry Association), and Albuquerque, N.M., (led by the producer-funded Dairy MAX), to engage producers in helping increase consumer awareness and get them to try the new pizza offerings at Domino’s.

Foodservice partnerships developed by the dairy checkoff have already grown cheese sales by millions of pounds.  The new Domino’s initiative is an exciting opportunity to add to those successes.

We as dairy producers expect the organizations we support to bring every possible resource to the table to help us weather the current economic storm.  Our extra push for pizza is one way we can provide a demand boost in the short term.  Meanwhile, maintaining and strengthening sales through long-term strategies will remain critically important to dairy’s future. 



Irving Britton farms with his wife, Pat, and their two sons at Villa Ridge, Ill.  They milk 110 cows and he serves on the Midwest Dairy Association St. Louis Division board.  He is also a board member for his cooperative, Prairie Farms, and for the Illinois Milk Producers Association.  

3/09 SUCCESS STRATEGIES: Prepare for better times

By John Ellsworth

We face some difficult times in the dairy industry. As I write this article, dairy producers are facing the lowest milk prices they’ve seen in five and a half years, and feed prices have decreased only slightly from last year’s high levels. These are the times when I like to reflect on the wisdom of others, such as former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz who said, “Nothing’s as good as it seems. Nothing’s as bad as it seems. Reality always lies somewhere in between the two extremes.”

While he was referring to the success levels of football teams, the same applies to our current industry situation. There is one thing we know with certainty – industry conditions will improve at some point. The most important question you should be asking yourself is, “Will I be ready?” 

Yes, I know all of us will welcome higher milk prices when they come, but will you be prepared to truly take advantage of the next upturn? Will your herd be producing at peak efficiency and be at its best in terms of herd health and reproductive status? These factors will be critical to your success.

So, how can you prepare? Here are a few points to focus on:

1. Review your costs of production. Are they in line with your regional industry? If not, what can you change?

2. Capitalize on the benefits of holding regular management team meetings. I do these with my clients to ensure that we stay on track, both on herd management and financial issues. Include your regular advisors: veterinarian, nutritionist, financial advisor and possibly your accountant or banker. During these meetings, we discuss challenges the client is facing, how we might improve breeding and feeding problems and other items that are important. They assist the producer, and build accountability and communication between the participants, all to the benefit of the dairy producer.

3. Is your lender on board with your plans? Most bankers know how tough it is at present. They also know it will change and that you can survive this downturn. Have you provided your banker with an updated cash flow projection for your operation? This will help him or her know where you will need assistance.

4. Continue to talk with your suppliers. Every vendor knows that this is a tough financial climate for producers. Communication is critical at this point. If you keep them informed, most will work with you because they also want your business in the good times.

5. Keep a positive attitude. Legendary coach Vince Lombardi said, “Winning isn’t a sometimes thing. It’s an all the time thing.” Having a good attitude will help you to see the positive changes that are coming sooner when they do arrive. Part of being a leader in your business is helping to keep your team’s morale level high.

Remember, as Booker T. Washington said:

“You measure the size of your accomplishment by the obstacles you had to overcome to reach your goals.” q


•  John Ellsworth of Modesto, Calif., is a consultant with the financial and strategic consulting firm Success Strategies. He can be reached at 209-988-8960, or by e-mail: je4success

Do manure haulers hurt roads?

By Susan Harlow, editor

Eastern DairyBusiness

    How much stress does manure hauling equipment put on rural roads? Professional nutrient management applicator organizations in five Midwest states are working with departments of transportation to find out. In a three-year, $750,000 study, equipment is being tested on pavement at the Minnesota Road Research facility in Montecello, Minn. Ryan DeBroux, Luxemburg, Wis., president of the Professional Nutrient Applicator Association of Wisconsin, said his profession wants to be ahead of the game. “There’s a lot of misconception out there,” he said. “We want to be proactive before towns get nervous and try to change the rules.”
    DeBroux said manure applicators stress to their customers that their equipment’s flotation tires and multiple axles don’t compact soils. Yet municipalities and states fail to give them credit for that.
     Professional nutrient management organizations in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Ohio and Michigan have contributed to the project. Departments of transportation in Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois are collaborating, as well as these agribusinesses that have donated money and/or equipment: Husky Farm Equipment, Houle, John Deere, Agco Corp., Case IH, Firestone, Titan Tire Corp. and Michelin.