Be future-ready with PDPW research

Brady Weiland

Recently I had the opportunity to sit at a table with a representative of one of the world’s largest dairy-brand customers – Nestlé. Hearing his view of the future was exhilarating and daunting at the same time. As he spoke, I felt a part of a bigger team – let’s call it Team Dairy. I could imagine how, by working more closely together, Team Dairy could win by better positioning our farms, our products and our future to compete more effectively locally and in the global marketplace.

As a PDPW board member, I’m fortunate to experience a number of similar conversations. Whether I agree with their viewpoints or not is another thing, but I can’t deny they help me farm with a clearer view of the future in mind. Those outside perspectives help me recalculate and reprioritize where to focus so I can position our farm to be future-ready.

I believe all farmers should have access to those kinds of conversations and insights – and so does PDPW. That’s why they recently conducted and are sharing FUTURE READYTM research to better anticipate the changing nature of dairy and understand how we can best position our farms for sustainable success. Through the greatly respected Forward Group – a research group based in St. Charles, Missouri – we had direct conversations with the nation’s leading dairy-food marketers and processors. We gained the perspective of more than 100 dairy producers from coast to coast. From this first-of-its-kind 360-degree study of the full dairy chain, we learned a lot about what it will take for producers to be future-ready for coming changes.

I’d like to share what we learned and how we can best position our farms for the future.

What’s ahead?According to PDPW’s FUTURE READY research, dairy-food customers believe the industry is changing fast – becoming more competitive, driven by consumer demands including environmental sustainability, worker care, animal care, economics and farm stories. They are seeking to partner with producers and suppliers who are aligned and committed to their values ​​and goals, and who will produce milk for those market needs.

The PDPW FUTURE READY research reveals these five on-farm practices will become increasingly important for dairy farms to be competitive in the future.

  • environmental-sustainability and regenerative-agriculture practices
  • cow-comfort management
  • producing milk to market needs
  • responsible labor-management practices
  • proactively telling our farm stories

According to the research, 80 percent of producers also believe the dairy industry is changing rapidly and will continue to do so. But less than half of producers surveyed say their dairies are well-prepared for the industry’s potential changes.

Education, training essential to future success

One thing both ends of the dairy-value chain—dairy-food customers and producers—could agree on is that education and training are essential.

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According to the PDPW FUTURE READY research, more than half of producers say there is a strong need for five types of training.

  • financial management
  • peoplemanagement
  • latest research regarding innovative farm practices
  • how to position a farmer as a preferred supplier to downstream customers
  • leadership development within farm teams, such as growing the next senior leaders

I’m proud to say PDPW already offers so much of the training producers need in order to take a proactive stance to be future-ready. Dairy’s Professional Development Organization® regularly facilitates training and educational programs.

Financial Literacy for Dairy® – With almost 20 percent of producers indicating they would like training on how to develop a written business-growth plan, PDPW offers the only comprehensive training curriculum for dairy producers – written in part by nationally recognized financial experts such as David Kohl. I’ve personally participated in this training. After completing Level 1, I left with more confidence in my farm’s financials as well as a solid plan to share with my banker. The experience was truly priceless. Several lending institutions offer full or partial scholarships to attendees through PDPW’s “Count on Us” program.

The training includes an online placement test and offers three levels.

  • Level 1: Dairy Financial Workshop
  • Level 2: Dairy Financial Strategy
  • Level 3: Dairy Financial Advance

Dairy Managers Institute® – PDPW offers people-management training and peer groups for managers at various levels. Dairy Institute Managers involved gain insights into hiring and retaining workers, as well as creating a culture of caring in which employees and owners feel respected, competitively compensated and empowered to advance in their careers while balancing quality of life. My farm team has benefitted by PDPW’s ability to provide educational sessions with simultaneous language translation. Now I can engage all my employees; language isn’t a barrier.

NEXUS® – Innovative ideas and technologies are a driving force behind improvements in productivity, efficiency and sustainability in today’s dairy industry. Through Nexus, dairy producers have the opportunity to hear and see first hand from researchers, founders and leaders who are developing the next generation of dairy-industry innovations. I enjoy continually learning more about the technological innovations that can take some of the pressure off our labor challenges.

Dairy’s Visible Voice® and Cornerstone Academy® – These one- or two-day trainings are transformational. They personally helped me develop my professional, communication and leadership skills. From motivational speakers, mock interviews and the opportunity to shape a farm’s story, these trainings will inspire attendees to be lifelong learners and prepare them to be leaders.

Education empowers producers of futures

PDPW, at the core, has a very basic belief. Education is the most powerful force you can use to change your world – for yourself, your farm and our industry. I’ve been fortunate to experience the power of education for myself. And I appreciate how these trainings inspire us, unlock our potential and grow each of us as a leader.

Our hope is that the PDPW research shines a light on gaps and opportunities that exist while the future of dairy farming continually unfolds. We hope it will foster greater alignment across the dairy chain to support dairy farmers in taking a proactive stance in learning and development to be future-ready.

Brady Weiland is a dairy producer and PDPW board member from Columbus, Wisconsin. Email to reach him. He owns and operates Weiland Dairy along with his parents, Roger and Tammy Weiland, and brother, Brett Weiland. Brady and Brett Weiland also own and operate High Gear Holsteins. The family cares for 1,300 cows and employs 17 additional team members. Brady Weiland oversees the daily operation on the farms as the dairy manager. He graduated from Madison Area Technical College with a certificate in diesel technology. He furthered his education at the University of Wisconsin-Farm and Industry Short Course, where he received a certificate for dairy-farm management. PDPW is the nation’s dairy-development organization; it has become the preferred source by dairy producers for excellent-quality unbiased training and education to help position farms as future-ready.

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