Since I can remember, it has always fascinated me that cows just came to the barn at milking time. And, almost always, they knew which tie stall they needed to go to. Even in today’s most modern parlors, the cows learn where they need to be, and they settle into a comfortable routine.

Maybe “comforted” is a better way to describe those early memories. Many of us who grew up on farms took a measure of comfort in the routines. Things just happened in their daily and seasonal rhythm, and when everything stayed in rhythm, the cows gave their best.

Are people at their best when they are in a routine? For the most part, yes. Today’s dairies demand protocols and a teamwork that requires everyone to fall in step to the cadence set by the team leaders. We all produce well when we are “in the zone.”

Think about the times when one of your cows needs special care or attention. She needs to be headed off, taken out of her familiar spot in the line-up, and moved into a pen for the care she needs. For a moment, everything seems disrupted. A brief flicker of panic appears in the cow’s eyes as you change her familiar route. And then, the good stuff happens. She relaxes as she adjusts to the fact that she’s getting special feed, special care, and a gentle, reassuring word of encouragement.

Each year, I see a similar realization happen among the dairy producers who come to PDPW programs. The farm’s routine is a bit thrown off as a key employee heads to a Calf Care Workshop and someone else has to cover while they are gone. Or, there is a brief bit of panic in the young farm couple’s eyes as they drive away from the farm for a day of training, feeling like they should be doing something “more important” with their time.

Then they arrive to the educational program. They are connected with industry experts who provide insights and ideas they had not heard before. More importantly, they connect with other producers who may have tried some of these new ideas, and can relate what went well and what to watch out for. When the learners leave the program for the day, they feel refreshed, strengthened by the fact that someone cares about what they are doing all day every day on the farm. They received a shot of energy, and that energy carries them back to their routine.

And when they get back into the routine again, they implement the new ideas that make the routine better.

PDPW’s 2012-2013 calendar is chock full of programs designed by dairy producers to help you be at the top of your game every day. Our board and staff are especially proud of the fact that many of our events combine the classroom with dairy tours where you can see the ideas put into action. Here are a few of the upcoming highlights:

  • Our new 100 Pound Dairy Tours, October 23, 24 and 25, will visit nine dairies of various sizes, all emphasizing cow comfort and allowing you to discover their secrets of high production. Sign up for one, two or three days.
  • Calf Care Connection is November 13 & 14 in two locations, Eau Claire and Kiel, Wis.
  • Visible Voice, November 28, is communications training for those who need to learn how to speak with the media. Talk about out of your comfort zone! The times and issues in our dairy industry require that we develop these skills.
  • People Management, December 5-6, will help you develop the HR protocols you need for high-performing teams.
  • Manager’s Academy, January 15-17, will challenge your mind as you travel to New Orleans and interact with high-level management of other businesses outside dairy, as well as the other dairy producers who attend with you.
  • Of course, the highlight of the year is the PDPW 2013 Business Conference, March 12-13 in Madison, Wis.

This is only a sampling – all of PDPW’s programs along with industry news are available at www.pdpw.org. Our dairy industry is so fortunate to have created – through the vision of dairy producers and supporting industry sponsors -- a professional development organization that keeps us in step with the latest changes and demands of our profession.

So, consider getting out of your comfort zone and spending some time learning alongside other dairy producers and industry professionals this year. It’s the individualized attention that you give to yourself and to the people on your dairy that will take your business to a new level of comfort, and performance.

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