Diagnostic Team Approach to Enhancing Dairy Farm Sustainability, Phase II

1998 Annual Report for ENE98-040

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 1998: $50,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2001
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
C. William Heald
The Pennsylvania State University

Diagnostic Team Approach to Enhancing Dairy Farm Sustainability, Phase II


Dairy Advisory Teams improve farm management success using current key advisors. Teams consider individual farm values, objectives, and constraints before identifying critical opportunities to improve business success. Teams are selected from people with skills and abilities that complement farm goals. A non-farm advisor organizes and runs the team meeting in consultation with the owner. Team meetings are short, focused, and regular. Teams select action plans that are critical to success. Regular team meetings increase the ability of farm advisors to monitor and make midcourse adjustment to farm plans. Farm owners make all decisions while benefiting from the advice given.

Demonstrate farm advisory teams for critical problem solving to more communities using partially compensated local coordinators.

Improve team members’ skills in problem solving, critical thinking and integrated farm systems planning.

Evaluate the impact of diagnostic teams and revise training materials.

Disseminate information about effectiveness of diagnostic teams through field days, pasture walks, discussion groups, and educational conferences. Assist team members in forming new teams after the completion of the one-year experience.

In October 1999, informational workshops were held to introduce the advisory team concept to agribusiness consultants and agents. Participants then nominated farms for the project. In November and December, the project leaders spent an hour visiting with each nominated farm to personally present the concept and to extend an invitation to the producer to attend the Dairy Advisory Team Kick-Off Workshop held in January 2000. The kick-off workshop offered an interactive case study, provided an industry perspective, described the role of the coordinator, and outlined steps to getting a team started. The workshop ended with teams starting their first team meeting. Teams were encouraged to then hold monthly meetings. These teams will end in the spring of 2001, when year-end data will be compiled. Meetings for team coordinators are held quarterly for additional training.

Dairy Advisory Teams have a significant positive impact on dairy farms and farm advisors. In a survey of farm advisors active on dairy advisory teams in the last four years, 76 percent responded yes to the question, “Did working with teams help you to achieve any of your own professional goals?” Ninety-two percent responded favorably to the question, “Did the team help you to learn about areas of expertise besides your own?” Sixty-one percent said “Working with teams influenced [positively] how they work with clients without teams.” Eighty-seven percent were “Somewhat to very satisfied with achievement of team goals” and 90 percent said they “Would continue to work with teams.”

From their experience, 63 percent selected three to six members as the better team size; the most popular expertise needed by advisory teams was in finance (94 percent), nutrition (93 percent), and health (86 percent). Many teams have two members from the farm management team–father and son, husband and wife, partners, or owner and herdsman.
Impact and Potential Contributions
Benefits of Dairy Advisory Teams often cited in the four-year survey include: Focuses business goals, brings outside ideas to business planning, improves production, develops better communication, solves critical problems, increases return on time invested, improves profitability, increases satisfaction, improves attitudes, and improves lifestyle. A CD-ROM and website of all materials used throughout the project is available, and these electronic materials make it possible for any organization to conduct informational meetings, train advisory teams, market the concept, and start up a business to provide dairy advisory teams. Program planners in other states, regions, and countries have requested presentation of the dairy advisory team concept in the next six months.
Changes in Plan of Work
The methods and approach have not changed for the project, but a one-year, no-cost extension was granted to allow data collection and summarization of the last year’s herds. Year-end for herds started in January 2000 is February 30, 2001.
· Pennsylvania Dairy Advisory Team Resource CD
· Pennsylvania Dairy Advisory Team Website at http://dat.das.psu.edu
· Pennsylvania Dairy Advisory Team Program Leader Handbook
· October 19, 1999 and repeated December 7, 2000—Agribusiness Informational Workshop, Martinsburg, PA and Belleville, PA
o Attendance- 45
· October 15, 1999—Dairy Advisory Team Workshop, Staunton, VA
o Attendance- 35
· January 18, 2000—Dairy Advisory Team Kick-off Workshop, Morrisons Cove, PA
o Attendance- 30
· January 19, 2000—Dairy Advisory Team Kick-off Workshop, State College, PA
o Attendance- 35
· February 1, 2000—American Dairy Science Association, Southern Region, Lexington, KY
o Attendance- 50
· February 24, 2000—Coordinator’s Goal Setting Workshop, State College, PA
o Attendance- 15
· February 28, 2000- Dairy Advisory Team Kick-off Workshop, Bedford, PA
o Attendance- 15
· March 15, 2000—1999 Coordinator’s Year-end Celebration, Carlisle, PA
o Attendance- 20
· June 21, 2000—Coordinator’s Meeting, State College, PA
o Attendance- 15
· August 1, 2000—Team Decision Center, University Park, PA
o Attendance- 23
· August 15-17, 2000—Ag Progress Days, Rock Springs, PA
o Attendance unknown
· September 14, 2000—Coordinator Meeting, State College, PA
o Attendance- 12
· October 4, 2000—Agribusiness Informational Workshop, State College, PA
o Attendance- 25
· November 17, 2000—Coordinator Meeting, State College, PA
o Attendance- 18
· “Dairying in Paradise”
o January/February 2000
· “Dairy Advisory Team Coordinators Save Time and Improve Problem Solving”
o May 2000
· “Somerset Dairy Advisory Team meets goal: Increases RHA by 9,000 pounds!”
o August 2000
· “Advisory Teams”
o Summer, 2000
· Dairy Advisory Team Newsletter
o Summer, 2000

· Dairy Advisory Teams Brochure
o August 2000
· “Dairy teams help PA farmers”
o October 2000
· Dairy Advisory Team Newsletter
o Fall, 2000
· “Penn State Dairy Advisory Team Program Releases Resource CD”
o Late November, 2000

Reported November 2000


Larry Hutchinson

Professor Veterinary Science
The Pennsylvania State University
115 Henning Building
University Park, PA 16802
Office Phone: 8148632160
Lisa Holden

Associate Professor Dairy and Animal Science
The Pennsylvania State University
324 Henning Building
University Park, PA 16802
Office Phone: 8148633672