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

2013 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


The goal of this project is to train dairy advisory team members about team management and use of tools to enhance the function of the team and ultimately the productivity, profitability and sustainability of the dairy farm. The use of dairy advisory teams has become a common practice for dairy farms throughout the Northeast. While many of those teams show demonstrated benefits to the farm, there are opportunities to expand the use of specific tools with teams to better achieve goals and monitor progress. The Profitability Assessment Tool in particular can help teams to identify key bottlenecks and help the farm to focus changes on areas that will result in the greatest profit. Project leaders will recruit 160 training participants from existing databases of more than 600 team members, create an interactive curriculum and conduct four workshops in Pennsylvania, New York and Vermont. Following the workshops, participants will be encouraged to use the tools and team management skills with their own teams, and then 100 participants will further their learning with discussion session via webinar and conference calls with instructors. Last, 80 of the project participants will complete a survey documenting the use of tools with their teams and the benefits seen by both teams and dairy farms.

Objectives/Performance Targets

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.




The project leaders have made solid progress toward meeting many of the milestones outlined in the application. Collaborators from Penn State, Cornell, and University of Vermont have presented workshops to 73 participants in three states and hosted a webinar series that reached 87 live listeners and 189 people who listened to the recordings at a later time. The workshops were facilitated by seven staff from the three collaborating universities and the webinar series included presenters from outside agencies along with staff from collaborating universities.




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 representatives working with 400 dairy farms.


Workshops were developed that included training on around ten tools (income over feed cost, cash flow, meeting agendas, benchmarking, repro drill down, data analysis tools, PA dairy tool, Cornell University Dairy Farm Business Summary, Dairy Profit Monitor). The workshops were facilitated by faculty and staff from Penn State, Cornell, and University of Vermont. Of the targeted 80 participants in the proposal, 73 participants have attended the workshops.




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


Penn State sent 2627 email newsletters that advertised the Tools for Teams workshops. In addition, 440 email announcements were sent that specifically targeted constituents in the immediate area where a workshop was going to be held. Cornell University contacted 485 people to announce the March 2013 workshop held in Morrisville, NY.


Cornell University also generated a postcard invitation for the Tools for Teams workshop held in November 2013 in Varysburg, NY. This postcard was attached to an email that reached 264 people. Advertising for the Vermont Tools for Teams workshop included 62 direct mailings/targeted emails originating from Penn State and the workshop was advertised through a University of Vermont dairy extension electronic newsletter that reaches approximately 800 people.




c. Eighty trainees will participate in workshops designed to create interest in understanding how to use tools on farm teams.


Four workshops were held in 2013: One in Pennsylvania, two in New York, and one in Vermont. Total number of workshop participants in 2013 was 55 (one additional workshop was held in Pennsylvania in December 2012 with 18 participants, bringing the grand total to 73). Some participants were dairy extension personnel; others were agricultural banking professionals, dairy farmers, nutrition and whole-farm consultants, and veterinarians. The targeted audience in the proposal was 80 participants.




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.


Data related to the number of cows and number of farms has not yet been summarized. This objective will be specifically addressed through a phone survey to be conducted in early 2014. In the meantime, when participants completed a follow-up survey after the webinar, 95% of participants responded that they had a high likelihood of using the tools after attending the workshop.


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.


A series of 5 webinars focused on farm financial issues was held beginning in May and concluding in July. Topics included strategies for successful communication during team meetings so that the important issues can be covered, using dairy profit monitor with teams, New York Farm Net program, benchmarking, and using DHI records to improve the bottom line. Participants were encouraged to ask questions and interact with the presenters during the live version of these webinars. In total, the webinar sessions were accessed by 87 live participants and 189 people via recording. A second webinar series is planned for 2014. The topics will include heifer raising, milk quality, reproduction, forage/feed quality, succession planning, and dealing with difficult situations in a team meeting. This session is scheduled to begin in March and continue through the end of May.




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.


The final phone survey has been drafted.   Investigators will attempt to contact each workshop participant to collect information about the impact of the program on a financial and non-financial basis.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Twenty-two workshop participants completed a follow-up survey within 6 weeks of the workshop. Overall delivery of the program was rated as good or excellent by 96% of participants.  The quality of program materials was rated as excellent by 72% of participants and good by 28% of participants.  For questions that rated the quality of information presented, 97% of responses were good or excellent. Participants were asked to rate their understanding of the presented tools before and after the workshops. After attending the workshop, 97% of participants rated their knowledge of the tools as high (compared to only 53% of high understanding responses prior to attending the workshop). There is additional data to be collected from workshop participants that will be included in the final report.


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