Volatility road sign.
July 18, 2018

Five Characteristics of Top Dairy Managers

 |  By: Jim Dickrell

Dave Becker, a business advisor with Dairy Business Consulting based in Osseo, Wis., says there are five characteristics of top dairy managers. All of them center on attitude rather than expertise.


  1. ‘A’ game. “Top managers I work with bring their “A” game every day,” he says. “Every time I visit these farms, everything is usually running well and expectations are always high of everyone whether they are employees or consultants.” While it’s a challenge to always remain positive in times of uncertainty, top managers project an upbeat attitude to bolster team morale.
  2. Focus is on things that are controllable. “Top managers focus on things they can control, and they don’t spend a lot of time on what the neighbor might be doing or the weather. They are always looking for opportunities to learn,” Becker says.
  3. Quick decision processes. “The reaction and response times are faster in top herds,” he says. “When the wheels fall off, the gap to get things running again smoothly is much shorter.”
  4. Priorities. “The best herds have lists of both short- and long-term priorities, and they manage to these lists,” says Becker. You have to know where you are in the bigger scheme of your business, or you’ll become distracted by things that will take you off course, he says.
  5. Communications. “Top managers communicate their expectations to their workers and the consultants they are working with,” Becker says. And in this environment of tight milk markets, they stay in touch with their milk buyers to understand what is expected of them and make sure they are shipping the kind of milk quality that is expected.


Becker also provided a list of bench marks (below) of Dairy Business Consulting herds in 2017 ranked by net cash per cow. “For 2017, the difference in net cash per cow was $813 between the top one third of our clients versus the bottom third,” he says.


“The major point of difference was high net cash herds were consistent in lower operating costs per line item with labor being the exception. Purchased feed made up 20% of the differences between herds followed by 19% in milk revenue,” he says.


“As with any benchmark, one number cannot tell the whole story,” Becker says. “However, it helps start the discussion of what areas of focus you should direct your management time.”


                                             Top 1/3 of Herds                            Low 1/3 of Herds


Net cash per cow             $988                                                   $175

Milk income                      $4,913                                                $4,762

Energy-corrected milk    92.4                                                    88.3

Operating expenses         $4,656                                                $5,181

Purchased feeds               $1,262                                                $1,422

  (non-grain, non-forage)

Labor                                   $889                                                   $834

Repairs                                $283                                                   $309

Breeding                             $67                                                     $98

Veterinary                          $139                                                   $181