Now that harvest is in full swing you may find yourself in a combine, tractor, or truck for hours on end without a whole lot to think about other than the task at hand. Spend some of that time thinking about the future of your farm and the goals you'd like to achieve. These goals can range anywhere from increasing your herd's milk production to beginning to artificially inseminate your cows to transferring the farm to the next generation. Setting goals for your farm is a necessary step on the path to success.
When contemplating your farm's goals and future, it is a good idea to sit down with your spouse, family, herdsman, or other employees to get their input. This will allow those parties to add their ideas and, in turn, everyone will be aware of the farm's goals and the steps needed to achieve them, as well as the projected timeline to complete those goals.
What is a goal? From the Merriam-Webster dictionary: a goal is "the end toward which effort is directed". Most goals have deadlines, therefore, classifying them into two categories: short-term and long-term. As a simple guideline, categorize goals with deadlines of days, weeks, or months (anything under one year) as short-term goals. Those goals with deadlines over one year classify as long-term goals. Divide long-term goals into categories of 1, 5, 10, and 20 years.
Short-term goals. A simple way to accomplish short-term goals is to make a "to-do" list. Write down goals you would like to get done this week, month, or year. Hang the list in a high traffic area such as an office bulletin board or on your refrigerator. Attach a pen to your list to cross off each goal once completed. Depending on your operation, some examples of short-term goals could be: tag calves as soon as they're born and record the information, gather fencing supplies for winter storage, maintain milking equipment, or clean pens and haul manure. When your list is done or almost done, make a new one.
Long-term goals. Where is your farm going to be twenty years from now? Although it may be a bit scary to think about at the moment, it is something to keep in mind. However, there are probably a few improvements you'd like to make to your farm before 2033 rolls around. Make a list of your long-term goals. Each goal in this category will most likely need to have an outline of steps in order to complete it. For example: your 5 year goal is to build a parlor and freestall barn and expand your dairy herd from within”“ going from 80 to 150 cows. Outline steps may include items such as: research and tour parlors and freestall barns, future plans for current facilities, or starting the use of sexed semen in your herd to grow from within. If your 10 or 20-year goal is to transfer the farm to the next generation, now is the time to start planning. Talk to your farm, financial, and any other advisors you have and get the younger generation involved in the day-to-day operations and decision making. This will make for a smoother transition when the time comes.
There are a few additional things to think about when going about this process of setting goals. Some may include (but are not limited to): in order to determine where you are going in the future, evaluate where you have been in the past, prioritize your goals, and make plans of action. Moreover, take a look at your resources: farm and family (including yourself) and if there are any restrictions that may come into play as you go along. It is also important to take a step back every once in awhile and reassess your goals. Take a look at the progress you're making and re-evaluate your list to see if it is still in line with your end vision. There will be probably be hurdles along the way so don't be afraid to put your head down, roll up those sleeves, and keep moving forward!
Now that you are thinking of the future, make your lists and get to work. Being able to cross off a completed goal is a huge motivator and vote of confidence. In time, your goals will improve your herd or farming operation. For more information or help with your farm goals, please contact your local extension educator.