Explore how you can manage risks and improve your overall performance through sound business planning, diligent regulatory compliance, continuous improvement, networking and participation in voluntary standards.
Planning is looking ahead and involves developing long-term strategies to increase the profitability and competitiveness of your dairy farm business and avoiding or mitigating the consequences of unexpected situations. Plans and strategies should be integrated into formal documents and resources should be made available to implement them.
The mission statement guides a business and the individuals who run it. The mission helps align actions and purposes and generally includes three aspects:
A strategy determines the direction in which an organization must move to fulfil its mission. A strategic plan acts as a road map to carry out the strategy and achieve long-term results. You can work with an advisor specialized in business management to prepare your plan or draft it on your own. In both cases, you should be able to respond to the following questions:
A formal agreement between business partners helps to work through disputes since resolution can be extremely difficult without one. To be legally binding, shareholder and partnership agreements must be written by a lawyer. In other words, these agreements must be formalized.
Succession planning helps agricultural business owners ensure the continued success and profitability of their businesses by transferring ownership and management to someone who can take over for them. Without a succession plan in place, your business is vulnerable to change, especially sudden and unexpected events brought about by illness, injury or a death in the family. By planning ahead, you will ensure that your business thrives with or without your leadership. In addition to protecting your investment, you are also protecting your family and employees from unnecessary stress and disruption during the transition period.
You must ensure that your operation complies with all applicable provincial and national laws and regulations at all times.
The regulatory context in which you operate your farm is complex and evolving. To ensure the legal compliance of your activities and adapt to legislation changes that could impact your operations, it is important to access resources that will help you identify national and provincial laws and regulations related to your operation. In addition, you should consider having:
Accurate and up-to-date records are essential to successful farm management. Before any business analysis, budgeting or financial decisions can be made, farm records must be maintained.
In addition to financial record keeping, you should keep records on key activities, including breeding, feeding, harvesting and field records. The less accurate your production records, the less relevant your financial projections will be. Depending on the province in which you are operating, you may also have a legal obligation to keep records of your production practices (e.g. employment and agrochemical use records). There are several benefits to sound record keeping:
FAO (2011) - Guide to good dairy farming practice
COOP fédérée (2013) - La Gestion durable d'une entreprise agricole
SAI Paltform (2009) - Principles & Practices for Sustainable Dairy Farming
Dairy Farmers of Canada (2015) - reference Manual: Evironment. proAction® Program. Draft version of July 2015
From a sustainability perspective, it is important to aim to continuously improve the farm’s environmental integrity, economic performance and social well-being in order to maximize the positive benefits for society and minimize the negative impacts on the environment.
Providing educational experiences in the workplace is important for the continued growth of employees but also farm managers. Training gives them the opportunity to learn valuable skills and techniques, increase their knowledge about the industry, envision new opportunities and learn new behaviours. Sessions may address specific themes such as financial management, communications, human resources or product marketing and can also be opportunities to exchange with people outside the agricultural sector.
What cannot be measured cannot be managed. This is why it is important to identify and monitor performance indicators for all areas of your operation. These indicators should be adapted to your specific activities and situation, and their number, complexity and measurement frequency should therefore vary accordingly. For example, if you have a smaller farm, you could monitor your fossil fuel consumption and only monitor your greenhouse gas emissions if you have more resources. You can then use the information you gain to understand, monitor, benchmark and improve your overall performance.
In agriculture, networking enables farm managers to exchange, learn and gain a broad vision of their farm in an evolving business environment. Physical and virtual networks are a source of innovation that helps anticipate challenges more effectively and provide social opportunities for producers.
By attending business or agricultural events, you give yourself an opportunity to monitor trends and issues that can affect the future of your farm, create networking and business opportunities and improve your knowledge and skills. Participating in conferences, seminars and training activities, visiting blogs and websites and reading specialized magazines and books are all relevant ways to stay involved and informed on the evolution of the industry. These initiatives will also help you quickly adapt to legislative changes and policies, market trends and the challenges and perspectives of different sectors and provide benchmarking opportunities.
By actively participating in agricultural organizations, value and supply chains and other business organizations, farm team members can contribute to industry solutions and industry advancement. Getting involved in organizations:
This involvement may include attending farm organization or industry meetings, serving on farm organization or industry boards and taking part in farm organization or industry-led projects to find solutions to issues or promote success stories to consumers or the public.
Over the years several programs and initiatives have been developed to help farmers attaining high production standards. The Canadian Milk Quality (CQM) program and the provincial Environmental Farm Plans (EFP) are among the most important to consider by Canadian dairy farmers.
An Environmental Farm Plan (EFP), or a Plan d’accompagnement agroenvironnemental (PAA), is a risk assessment tool to identify ways to make improvements on the farm that will be beneficial to the environment and on-farm management efficiency. To fill out an EFP/PAA, farmers must draft an action plan for each high-risk area. The action plan may include elements ranging from monitoring to the implementation of specific actions. An up-to-date EFP/PAA is a requirement of the proAction® initiative, along with an action plan that addresses areas designated as industry priorities.
Today’s milk consumers—whether they are processors, retailers, exporters or individuals—want assurance that the food they receive is safe, wholesome and produced responsibly. Buyers want further proof that the foods they purchase meet clearly defined food safety standards. The Canadian Quality Milk Program (CQM) is an on-farm HACCP-based food safety program developed by Dairy Farmers of Canada. Producers who have implemented the program have found it to be an excellent risk prevention program, effective management tool and useful training tool that increase staff awareness and responsibility with regards to safe milk and meat production.