Transforming Your Dairy with a Team Approach

Phoebe Bitler of Vista Grande Farms

Dairy producers know that running a successful business requires teamwork and expertise in multiple areas—from herd health and milk production to finance, business planning and employee management.

For Dave and Phoebe Bitler from Vista Grande Farms in Fleetwood, Pennsylvania, a team approach to decision-making was just what they needed to transform their business. With 160 milking cows and 450 acres of crops, the Bitlers wanted to strengthen their dairy’s efficiency, improve profitability and enhance performance to prepare for when their son joined them in partnership.

A Trusted Team of Advisors

Through a team program grant from the Center for Dairy Excellence, the Bitlers established a Dairy Profit Team. The program provided them with a trusted team of advisors to help them analyze their current operation and consider future opportunities.

“The Dairy Profit Team helped guide our thoughts as we planned how to operate our dairy efficiently and create enough return to allow our son to join us in partnership,” said Phoebe Bitler. “The Profit Team concept helped us bring our most important industry support persons to the table at the same time. This provided a forum to share and build plans using their knowledge and experience.” 

Learning from experts across the industry also helped lay the foundation for a future expansion. A few years later, the Bitlers utilized the Center’s Dairy Transformation Team grant as they contemplated the idea of updating their robotic milking system and rebuilding a facility on site that had been damaged in a fire.  

“The Dairy Transformation Team helped us as we set out to update the farm so the next generation would be able to continue dairying on our land,” Phoebe shared. “The funds from the Center enabled us to pull together the right people to guide us in planning. Having specialists in finance, construction, agriculture engineering, and dairy health fields allowed us to share our ideas, and we could all weigh the pros and cons before dirt was moved.”

Once the evaluation and planning stages were complete, the Dairy Transformation Team helped the Bitler family successfully execute their farm’s transformation. The team was there to help them navigate permitting laws and maintain an efficient timeline.

“The Center’s staff proved to be valuable as they helped us navigate environmental permitting laws.  They were knowledgeable on who to contact and helped to open doors so we could move forward,” Phoebe said. “The Center has a broad network of working relationships and worked diligently to provide the Department of Environmental Protection with information and guidance to make agriculture permitting timelier.”

Building Long-Term Partnerships

Once a transformation is complete, many producers still require support to ensure their dairy continues to be profitable. After utilizing the Transformation Team for two years, individuals can receive the Profit Team grant for an additional two years to ensure they continue to have a solid network of support and guidance from their advisors.

For Phoebe and her family, it was the long-term partnerships they formed with their team that helped make their future plans a reality.

“The Center for Dairy Excellence provides the big picture of the industry for all segments. Producers, processors, accountants, nutritionists, and consultants can all count on the Center for resources,” Phoebe said. “They provide a network in which everyone can give input and receive guidance from each other. It allows us all to be partners.”

The Center for Dairy Excellence empowers and supports Pennsylvania dairy families and businesses to thrive. Through grants, resources and programming, the Center works to help dairy farmers remain competitive, successful and financially stable.

By leveraging funds provided through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Center provides grants to individual farms to establish either a Dairy Profit, Transition or Transformation Team. A team approach often helps provide greater insight into the decision-making process, improving dairy farms’ profitability and opening doors for the future.