Setting Goals on the Dairy Farm

The end of the year is a great time to reflect on our past successes and focus on plans for the coming year. Setting effective goals is crucial to help us progress into the coming year, and goals can assist farmers in tracking progress year after year and help push them toward greater success. While goal setting can be challenging, the benefits of establishing written goals to look at and strive for are worth the investment in time.

The first step in setting a goal is to determine what you want to achieve and why you need to achieve it. Writing this out clearly and concisely will help you when you share your goal with others. The next step is deciding how you will achieve these goals and who you need to enlist to help you. Since a dairy farm is a team environment, there may be many people you will need to share your goals with so they can help you in achieving them. Having an open line of communication with all employees on the farm and being willing to listen to and take feedback will improve your success with your goals. You also may need to enlist outside help from your veterinarian or nutritionist, and they may have specific strategies you can implement to help you achieve your goals.

The SMART method is a great way to establish goals. A well-written goal should be specific (S), measurable (M), attainable (A), realistic (R) and include a time frame (T) for achieving the goal. This method is often expanded to include evaluate (E) and reevaluate (R). For example, a good goal would be “Reduce the bulk tank somatic cell count by 5% in the next six months and by 10% in the next year”. This is a better goal than “improve milk quality”. The time frame also gives you points at which to evaluate and reevaluate. Multiple goals can be set for a single area of the farm but try to limit your plan to 4 or 5 goals to avoid overwhelming your employees or yourself. Prioritize goals in each area based on their importance for the farm’s well-being and how short-term goals can help you achieve long-term goals. Many goals will require protocol changes, making it crucial to work with your employees, veterinarian, and nutritionist to ensure these changes go smoothly. There may also be barriers to achieving your goals. Working with others to identify and remove these barriers can improve your likelihood of success. Once you reach a goal, reward yourself and your employees before transitioning to the next goal, which encourages continuous improvement.

After overcoming the difficulty of the past few years, setting new goals can provide your farm with something to pursue. The SMART(ER) method supplies you with well-written goals that can be shared with those who can help achieve them. Setting short-term goals will help you achieve your long-term goals and allow everyone the opportunity to celebrate when goals are achieved.