Allen J. Young
Extension Dairy Specialist

One of the functions of a manager is an area called "controlling". Its purpose is to ensure that events on your dairy conform to your plans. Some of the basic elements of controlling are:

1. Setting goals and using standards
2. Monitoring (measuring, collecting, recording) and reporting
3. Interpreting and evaluating information
4. Taking corrective action

It is like the old adage: "If you don't know where you're at, then it doesn't matter which direction you go."

One of the frequent questions I get asked is "How am I doing in X area compared to my neighbor, county, state, etc.?" This is a good question to ask yourself, and is part of the controlling function. In order to evaluate yourself you need to know:

a. Your production values (current status)
b. Your personal goal for that parameter (What's a goal?).
c. Current benchmarks and industry standards (But I'm different)
d. What current research suggests for that parameter (What do they know!)

In order to accomplish these points you need to:
The Personal Herd Profile allows you to specify which items from the Herd Summary you want listed on the profile and then compares your herd average with the average of that item for the county, state, and region (for those on DHIA). The report also leaves a space in which to put your herd goals. It gives you a percentile ranking of your herd compared with those on DHIA in the state. It also includes the coefficient of variation, standard deviation, and deviation percentile; measures of how variable the data is. Finally, quartile averages from the region are computed to give you a comparison of where your herd falls in the region. The regional data is broken out by breed in contrast to the county and state data which includes all cows.

While not everyone can or should be in the top percentile for every category, you should seriously (re)evaluate how you are doing if you are below the 50th percentile. There may be an opportunity to become more profitable or productive. This also brings up one last thing to be aware of. It involves point (d) in the list above. Even though you may be doing fine compared with the rest of the dairies in your area, you may not be producing up to what current research suggests you should. A good example of this is the category average age at first calving (mon). Below are data from a herd to show you what I mean.

Grp 1
Grp 2
Grp 3
Grp 4

In this case, current research suggests that an average age at first calving of 24 months should be the goal to strive for. Our example herd is at 25.3 months which is better than the county, state, and region averages, but they have not reached their goal of 24 months. If you look at the percentile value of 29% it means that 71% (100 - 29) of the herds in the state have a higher value than our example herd. This might be interpreted as being bad, but in this case that happens to be good (since a lower age at first calving is better), even though they haven't reached their goal.

In conclusion, you need to know where you are and where you want to be or events on your farm are controlling you, not the other way around. In tight situations, those that are pro-active rather than reactive will be the most successful. If you want more information regarding the Personal Herd Profile, contact your DHIA technician or DHI-Provo. ©