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What the Ziehms' Tiashoke Farms gained by forming a Dairy Profit advisory team.

May 18, 2014

3 Min Read

By Kara Lynn Dunn

"You cannot beat the power of collaboration," insists Stuart Ziehm. He knows. Ziehm runs Tiashoke Farms at Buskirk and Easton, N.Y., with brothers Brian and Eric and parents Frank and Terry.

While the family is a team, Stuart is talking about the collaborative power of the Dairy Profit team that helps their dairy operation with 700 milking cows, 600 young stock, and 1,500 acres in crops. The farm's advisory team formed in 2008 with funding from the New York Farm Viability Institute.

It was the kick-start the family needed, as Stuart explains: "Working with people exposed to the agricultural industry away from your farm brings great value to the discussions.

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"You cannot have a three- to five-year plan and say this is what we're going to do. This industry changes so quickly, decisions come at you harder and faster." A team that meets regularly, he adds, helps make sure you react to new situations and opportunities quickly and correctly.

Advisory team earns its keep
The Tiashoke Farms team includes a dairy nutritionist, crop and feed consultants, veterinarian, farm lender, Extension educators and others. Meetings are monderated by the farm's Zoetis animal health representative.

One of the team's early ideas reaped savings of $2.50 per calf per day. "Our consultants who see many operations suggested we had the ability for in-house calf-raising," he recalls. "We successfully adopted group housing, mob feeding and calf management within our regular milking shifts without adding new labor."

Since then, the team designed a new transition facility to reduce 0 to 60-day cull rate and provide maternity housing. New refrigeration systems enhanced direct sales deliveries to their large wholesale buyers. Now, they're developing a merger to bring a neighboring 300-cow dairy operation into the business.

"We've grown from feeling the meetings were a burden at the start to now looking forward to the conversations," reflects Stewart. "Farm owners must remember that, at the end of the day, they are the owners and decision makers of their business. But the insight that comes with the right advisors is invaluable," he adds.

Now's the time to team up
NYFVI is making funds available for new Dairy Profit teams to start in 2014. Team Coordinator Kristin Cleveland notes, "Some producers enjoying the currently high milk checks may postpone the opportunity to start a Dairy Profit team. But the time to develop an advisory group to enhance your business efficiencies is now."

NYFVI Managing Director David Grusenmeyer notes, "It's precisely when times are good that a Dairy Profit team can do some of its best long-range planning work. That's when a bit of flexible cash is available to put into capital improvements and other enhancements, rather than putting every resource into staying afloat when milk prices drop."

Watch for more details in June's American Agriculturist issue. For more information on starting a Dairy Profit team in New York, contact Cleveland at 315-453-3823 x103.

Dunn writes from her farm in Mannsville, N.Y.

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