Take What You Need

One of my favorite things to do while I am working out on the farm is listen to podcasts. I do listen to some dairy-focused podcasts, but many that I listen to have nothing to do with dairy. One of my favorites ends each episode with the phrase, “Take What You Need and Leave the Rest.” Much of what she shares during each episode doesn’t relate to me, but I can always take a nugget of information and apply it somewhere within my own life.

When I first started in this role at the Center, I had very little management experience. I had to quickly develop my skills in employee management, fund development, and other key areas of our work. I brought coaches and advisors to provide advice on how best to approach each area. However, I always looked at their advice as simply that – advice that I can interpret in a way that makes the most sense for me. Essentially, I take what I need and leave the rest.

Have you ever done that with a consultant? They recommend certain strategies, and you evaluate their advice to determine what would work in your operation. Your nutritionist might recommend switching to a different forage, but based on your soil type and weather conditions, you realize that forage isn’t going to do well on your farm. Your AI representative recommends a bull list that has high type and production, but after evaluating the cost, you pick the middle bulls instead of those ranked the highest.

Every time we hear something new – whether it be at an educational event, in something we hear or read in a podcast or article, or even in a piece of advice from a consultant or friend – we have the opportunity to “take what we need and leave the rest.” The truth is we can learn something by listening to anyone – even someone with a completely different perspective – if we look at it through that lens. What you can’t do is take something new away from a conversation you never had, a podcast you never listened to, or a meeting you never attended.

With the winter season potentially providing a little more down time on your operation, make sure you find opportunities to “Take What You Need.” Look through the pile of dairy magazines that grew over the past eight months and read a couple articles you think might be interesting. Invite a consultant or colleague you respect over for coffee and ask him to share what he has seen really going well on other dairies. Find at least one meeting you can attend that has a speaker offering a different perspective.

Summit Around the Corner

One meeting to consider attending is our Pennsylvania Dairy Summit, scheduled for February 7 – 8 at the Lancaster Wyndham in Lancaster, Pa. The Center for Dairy Excellence co-hosts this event annually with the Professional Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania to provide a mix of management training, industry insight, networking and inspiration appealing to anyone working in the dairy industry. We have four breakout tracks this year: For Your Dairy, For Your Future, For Your Employees, and For Your Perspective.

With volatility in dairy markets being front and center in 2023, Phil Plourd who is the Head of Market Intelligence with Ever.Ag will share his perspective on the never-ending shifts in dairy markets and how to navigate an increasingly more volatile marketplace. Roxi Beck with the Center for Food Integrity will talk about building trust in and outside the farm gate – with your employees, your family members and business partners, and with the vendors and customers supporting your farm. She will help us think differently about what it means to earn trust and how different pressure points are shaping today’s food systems with a need for deeper transparency.

While not every topic at the Summit will be something you can take back and directly implement on your farm, there will be plenty of opportunities there to “Take What You Need.”  If you are interested in attending the Dairy Summit, visit padairysummit.org to register or learn more. The first person from a dairy farm can register for $100, and additional farm members can come for $75. One-day producer rates are even lower. To learn more, call the Summit Business Office at 814-355-2467 or visit padairysummit.org.

A Different Perspective

British novelist Doris Lessing once wrote that learning is when “You suddenly understand something you’ve understood all your life in a new way.” Many of us have spent our entire lives working in the dairy business – managing cows and operating dairy farms. So, we develop an attitude that there is nothing new we can learn. But the truth is that when we stop learning, we stop growing. And when we stop growing, there isn’t much else to look forward to in life.

Taking the time to explore a new article or podcast series, have a deeper conversation with a colleague or consultant, or attend a meeting can give us perspective to strengthen our business, our relationships, and even our own way of thinking. Even if not everything you learn or hear relates to where you are or what would work for your business, you can still “Take What You Need and Leave the Rest.”

As always, the Center is here to be a resource for your dairy farm. To learn more about our on-farm grant programs and other resources or how we can help, call us at 717-346-0849 or visit our website at www.centerfordairyexcellence.org.

Editor’s Note: This column is written by Jayne Sebright, executive director for the Center for Dairy Excellence.