This year has brought so many of us hardships, not only personally but professionally. Many of our fellow farmers have been struggling or even had to make the awful decision to let go of their family’s legacy. With the new year around the corner, we need to start planning goals for the future livelihood of our dairy farms. This is an overwhelming and daunting prospect, many people just don’t take the time to make appropriate goals or don’t even know how to make them, let alone how to achieve them. I mean, how many of us make New Year’s resolutions and by January 15th, we have given up and abandoned them entirely.

Dairy KPI/Goals

Why Make KPIs/Goals for your Dairy Farm?

To learn how to set appropriate, long-lasting goals for your dairy, we need to look at how major corporations are run. Many big businesses and even some larger dairies have already adopted a set of KPIs. What in the world is a KPI? To put it simply, KPI is an acronym for Key Performance Indicator. Which are diagnostic tools that can be used to identify weaknesses and be used for goal setting. They are used to measure the overall performance of a company or department within a company. As dairy farmers, we will need to design and write KPIs that are tailored to life on the farm and its designated areas like maternity.

Before we start making goals for the dairy, we need to know what makes a good KPI. Each KPI needs to provide objective and measurable evidence of progress to achieving the desired goal. This will help you to make better and more informed decisions on the direction and future of your dairy. You should be able to compare the results and track not only the quality of effectiveness but also the performance of employees.

Next, we need to decide what our KPIs should be. A good rule of thumb is to always start with the basics. You should be able to know what you want to achieve and why you need to achieve it. You need to develop a plan for how to achieve those goals. The goals should be measurable-you will need to know how to measure them and how often you should review the results. Also, you will need to determine who is going to be responsible for monitoring these goals and results.

Finally, you can sit down and begin writing out the goals for the upcoming year for the direction of your farm. EEK, I don’t know where to start! I am sure you have lots of ideas but have no clue on how to begin to write these thoughts and goals down. Remember that goals are just dreams until you put them on paper.

Prevent Calf Sickness and Protect Future Profits: The 5-Step checklist for better calf health by Golden Calf Company

How to Write Your KPIs:

You will need a clear objective that is integral to the success of your dairy farm. You will need to share these goals with your employees, making sure everyone is on the same page and they know what you want to achieve. You will need to have an open line of communication with them and make sure you listen to their concerns and feedback as well. Because frustrated and unheard employees will not help you achieve your goals. You also want to make sure that each KPI is measurable and that you review each of them either weekly, monthly, etc. A particular KPI can evolve and change over time, keeping it relevant to your current situation. I would advise you to use the “SMART” methodology when writing your KPIs and then make it even “SMARTER.” 

“SMART is another acronym that the business world uses. We can also use it here. You will want to make sure each KPI or goal you set follows these items.

  • Sspecific
  • M-measurable
  • A-attainable
  • R-realistic
  • T-time frame

Now to make them “SMARTER”

  • E-evaluate
  • R-reevaluate

You will want to continuously, evaluate, and reevaluate the KPIs/goals that you have written to make sure they are still relevant or can be improved upon more. Here are some criteria to help you make these “SMART” and even “SMARTER” KPIs:

  1. Goals-based on qualities that can be controlled
  2. They are objective and not based on opinion
  3. They are derived from strategy and focus on improvement
  4. They are clearly defined and simple to understand and carry out
  5. They are relevant with an exact purpose
  6. They are consistent
  7. They are specific and relate to the specific goal of the dairy
  8. They are precise
  9. They provide timely and accurate feedback
  10. And they need to reflect the dairy’s processes

One last tip before we look at an example of some KPIs for the maternity area on your farm, you do not want to measure everything, that is just too overwhelming! Just focus on a couple of things, no more than 4-5 KPIs/goals for each area that will be easily monitored and eventually achieved. Set small goals to reach your larger goals, this way you are constantly making progress, and you and your employees will stay motivated and not get discouraged.

Dairy KPIs-maternity area

Maternity Area KPIs Example:

On the farm, there are many areas that you can focus on and create some realistic and achievable goals. A good place to start is with your newborn calves, as they are the future of your dairy farm’s profitability. 

Each KPI should be a measurable ratio. Meaning that = X:Y

  X= is what you measured:Y= is the period of time

These ratios then can be used by you and your managers to make judgment calls, problem-solving, protocol changes, make new goals, etc. You can review the KPIs/goals and make changes if necessary. Thus making informed decisions to grow your dairy’s profitability.

Some things that you can easily track and may already do so, in the maternity area, are:

  1. Quality of Colostrum at the first feeding and second feedings
  • Goal= Making sure that each calf born is getting 4 liters of 22% or higher Brix reading at the first feeding of colostrum.
  1. Blood Serum Protein totals 
  • Goal= Having 90% of the calves born have a greater than 5.5g/dl total blood serum protein level on day 2.
  1. Morbidity Rate/Mortality Rate
  • How many calves are getting sick versus the number of calves born
  • Goal=Have less than 1% mortality rate.
  • Goal= Have less than 5% of the calves born during the year becoming sick.
  1. Number of Calves born DOA
  • If a calf dies within the first 48 hours of life it is considered a stillbirth.
  • While this would be recorded by the maternity area, the responsibility includes not only the maternity employees and delivery protocols, but also the dry cow protocols.

Knowing these types of data can help you to make decisions on what type of new protocols you want to implement. If you are not achieving the KPIs/goals you have written out, then you will need to implement better colostrum management practices, better hygiene, and better housing. For example, you may not have a colostrum management system in place currently when you first write your KPIs, and now, you are not achieving the goals that were set-it may be time to invest in such a system to increase the future profitability of the farm. Yes, this may seem like a costly investment and one you are worried about taking, but remember that it costs extra money in vet bills and extra time and energy from your employees to care for sick or dying calves. Having measurable goals and proper protocols devised and tools readily available for your employees to use will help to eliminate some of those stressors.

Building your future dairy profitability is best started with writing down some “SMARTER” goals, otherwise known as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). This will help you identify your farm’s weaknesses and help you to fix those weaknesses with proper planning and problem-solving measures in individual areas. Remember to make sure that your KPIs are measurable and that you continuously review and revise them on a regular basis whether it be weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly. Also, only set a few, no more than 4-5 KPIs/goals for each area of your farm. Set small easily obtainable goals that strive towards a larger goal to keep the farm moral high as you meet each of your “SMART” KPIs and you too will make your dairy a hero.

Prevent Calf Sickness and Protect Future Profits: The 5-Step checklist for better calf health by Golden Calf Company