Tools for Teams: Improving the success of dairy farm teams to benefit farm performance

2012 Annual Report for ENE12-124

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2012: $96,133.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Lisa Holden
Penn State

Tools for Teams: Improving the success of dairy farm teams to benefit farm performance


Dairy advisory team use is widespread in the Northeast. A 2004 pilot project reported an advantage of $250/cow for dairy profit teams. However, many teams lack skills and tools to effectively improve both farm and team performance. Whole farm and team management tools (PA Dairy Tool, Income Over Feed Cost Tool, Cash Flow Planning Tool, dairy analysis tools and Monthly Monitor Tool) can be used effectively to help teams make better use of resources. Survey data from the 2010 Friday Facilitator Forum webinars showed that while teams are able to set goals, developing monitoring systems to achieve those goals can be a weakness. Good use of tools improves success by providing data critical for timely decision making and by enhancing skills of team members.

Solutions and benefits
This regional project will train approximately 80 extension educators and agribusiness professionals to effectively use a variety of tools to improve team performance. Participants will attend a local training where they will utilize a case study approach to work through several scenarios and learn how to better use tools with teams. After the training, participants will apply their newly learned skills with team tools to at least 5 on-farm advisory teams on farms. Following use of tools with teams, trainees will have opportunity for follow up discussion with instructors through a series of webinars and conference calls. Finally, a survey instrument will be utilized to determine tool use and beneficial impact for approximately 400 farm teams milking approximately 34,000 cows.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Performance Target and Milestones

Performance Target:
Eighty team members will attend a training workshop and teach 400 dairy farmers who manage 34,000 cows how to use tools to improve: milk production, herd management, income over feed costs, cash flow planning or whole herd profitability.

a.Develop a workshop curriculum for in the most effective use of a variety of on farm assessment tools that will be used to train 80 extension educators and agribusiness representative working with 400 dairy farms.

b. Two hundred workshop invitations will be mailed to active team members in three states.

c.Eighty trainees will participate in workshops designed create interest and understanding in using tools on farm teams.

d.The 80 participants will use at least one tool with 5 or more of their team farms, milking approximately 34,000 cows, within six months of initial training.

e.At least 60 participants will take part in feedback sessions conducted through webinars and conference calls, and they will provide information about effective use of tools.

f.At least 50 participants will complete a final survey about the impact of the tool use on both the team and the farm performance.


a. Curriculum was developed for the Tools for Teams workshops. The curriculum includes a case study that follows a dairy advisory team over multiple years as they incorporate and use various tools. The tools in this training are provided in hard copy in a portable toolbox given to participants as well as electronically on a flashdrive for future use with their teams.

b. Workshop invitations were sent to 60 extension educators and agribusiness professionals in the area surrounding Altoona, Pennsylvania where the first workshop was held. Additionally, several press releases and online communications were utilized to announce the program and the program was included in the full program guide for the Penn State Dairy Extension Team that is mailed to 7,000 dairy farmers and industry personnel.

c. Twenty-two registrants partcipated in the first Tools for Teams workshop held on December 18, 2012 in Altoona, Pennsylvania. (Note: The original program date was October 30, but the workshop was postponed due to Hurricane Sandy.)

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Impacts to date

The project team spent time developing and extensively reviewing the curriculum. There are some customized tools included that are available in various states as well as a good core of tools that are widely available.

Positive comments were received from the first workshop along with constructive critique about arrangement of materials. All participants said that training was beneficial and that they would be likely to use the tools with their teams in the future.

More formal program evaluations will be summarized following the complete set of workshops.


Virginia Ishler

[email protected]
Extension Associate
324 Henning Building
University Park, PA 16802
Office Phone: 8148633912
Karen Baase

[email protected]
Association Issue Leader – Agriculture
Cornell Cooperative Extension
PO Box 1209 100 Eaton Street
Morrisville, NY 13408
Office Phone: 3156843001
Tony Kitsos

[email protected]
Farm Management Educator
University of Vermont
278 South Main Street, Suite 2
St. Albans, VT 05478
Office Phone: 8025246501
Robert Goodling

[email protected]
Extension Associate
324 Henning Building
University Park, PA 16802
Office Phone: 7172704391
Rebecca White

[email protected]
Project Coordinator
324 Henning Building
University Park, PA 16802
Office Phone: 8148633917