Raechel Sattazahnand her husband, Doug, operate Zahncroft Dairy LLC with Doug’s brother and sister-in-law in Womelsdorf, Pa. where they milk 100 head of Holsteins and Brown Swiss. Raechel also works full-time as knowledge center director for AgChoice Farm Credit.
Raechel Sattazahnand her husband, Doug, operate Zahncroft Dairy LLC with Doug’s brother and sister-in-law in Womelsdorf, Pa. where they milk 100 head of Holsteins and Brown Swiss. Raechel also works full-time as knowledge center director for AgChoice Farm Credit.

For many dairy producers, there is much sentimental value in continuing the family tradition. This is true in our own family, where my husband and his brother are the third generation on the family farm. It is hard to ignore the pride that comes from building on what generations before us have done. But while the land that we farm might be the same, and historic buildings are still standing, today’s dairy farms operate much different than the farms operated by our grandparents and even our parents.

One key difference is the awareness of young and beginning farmers to run their operation as a business. Farms were indeed sources of income for past generations’ farm families, but today’s farmers want to be as business savvy as ever. Yes, they want to produce more pounds of milk, but they want to do so profitably and to meet their business and personal goals.

In my work in the Farm Credit System, I regularly interact with young and beginning farmers in all aspects of agriculture.

Many young farmers know they need to focus on the business-side of their operation, but they struggle sometimes in putting it into action, and rightly so – it is tough.

I see this first-hand as a young and beginning farmer myself. It has been just over four years since my husband and I and his brother and sister-in-law created the dairy operating entity on their family’s farm. We know the importance of discussing the business side of the operation, but it is very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operational details.

A few best practices that I’ve learned, both on our farm and through my work with others, to help keep business management a priority include:

• Set aside time for business meetings. Mark family business meetings on the calendar and stick with them. Otherwise, you will find a million other things to do on the farm and never find time to discuss the future of your operation.

• Seek out education. Look for workshops and courses focused on business-related topics such as business planning, budgeting and risk management. Besides learning business skills at these events you will probably meet other young farmers like you looking to learn.

• Don’t be afraid to ask for help. From industry consultants to mentor farmers, there are many people willing to help young and beginning farmers better understand how to manage the business aspects of their operation.

Business management skills will only continue to increase in importance as our dairy operations become more complex. Let’s take the steps now to ensure a successful future. After all, there is nothing more rewarding than carrying on the family tradition, while also meeting our own business and financial goals.

 

Learn more about Raechel and follow her blog, Go Beyond the Barn, at www.gobeyondthebarn.wordpress.com.