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New York’s Dairy Profit Teams
Profitability proven with wider management

J-High Acres Dairy Profit Team: L to R - Standing, Loretta Jones; seated: Jack Jones; Dr. Bill Eskeli, DVM; custom cropper Ed Persons; Gary Stoddard of Genex; long-time J-High Acres employee Bill DeGolier; daughter and son-in-law Jennifer and Jim Estabrook; dairy nutritionist Lynn Harris; granddaughter Jessica Estabrook; and son Jack Jones III. Photo: Lisa Kempisty

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Since 2007, New York’s Dairy Profit Teams (DPT) of farm personnel and ag professionals have enhanced farm operations statewide. DPT-driven farms prompted by start-up funding from the New York Farm Viability Institute, have made significant gains in productivity, efficiency, and profitability, and the Institute has announced a new round of funding for new team development.

“New York’s Dairy Profit Teams have made a substantial impact on participating farms. We are pleased to be funding a new round of teams in 2014 in cooperation with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets,” says NYFVI Managing Director David Grusenmeyer.

Farmers who would like to start their own Dairy Profit Team in 2014-2015 can contact Grusenmeyer at 315-483-3823 x104. The program covers seven meetings over a 15-month period and up to $2500 of costs.

J-High Acres in Frewsburg, N.Y., in southwestern New York state (Chautauqua County) is one of the farms that has benefited from the Dairy Profit Team program.

“I was interested to try a Dairy Profit Team at a time when my son, son-in-law and daughter were just coming into the farm business,” says Jack Jones. “The concept sounded like it could put us all on the same page by bringing everyone to the table to discuss how we could be more profitable.”

Jones owns the farm in partnership with wife Loretta, son Jack III, and son-in-law Jim and daughter Jennifer Estabrook.

The team, started in 2007, meets 3-4 times a year in the farm kitchen. Team members include family members, long-term employee Bill DeGolier, veterinarian Dr. Bill Eskeli, dairy nutritionist Lynn Harris, custom cropper Ed Persons, and Gary Stoddard of Genex, a supplier of artificial insemination reproductive services.

The team’s agricultural professionals bring a broad perspective to discussions.

“The family works on our one farm. The consultants work on many farms and see what those farms are doing right and share ideas that might be a good fit for our operation,” Jack says.

Cornell Cooperative Extension Chautauqua County Dairy Educator Lisa Kempisty facilitates the meetings. CCE Chautauqua County Farm Business Management Educator Ginny Carlberg reviews the Dairy Farm Business Summary with the team.

“The financial information we use is primarily from the Farm Business Summary which covers a lot of details,” Jack explains.

One of the larger projects the farm has implemented is construction of a new heifer barn in 2011.

“We looked at the numbers and realized we needed to make more room for the animals. The Dairy Profit Team gave us the push in the right direction and building that barn is one of the better things we have done. We all agreed that cow comfort is a priority,” Jack explains.

He says the new barn has supported herd growth to accommodate the new family members coming into the business and has reduced incidents of cow illness.

“We are raising better heifers that freshen earlier and bring us a quicker payback,” Jack says.

J-High Acres harvests 1000 acres of cropland to feed a milking herd of 250 cows plus 280 heifers. Team discussions helped improve feed quality by changing seeding practices, more timely cutting (in 2013 they achieved four cuttings of high quality grass hay), and better bunk management.

“Our crop guys noticed some things that we could change and our forage program has gained tremendous quality over the past five years,” Jack says.

The J-High DPT also helped the farm obtain $250,000 in state and federal grants to add sand lanes and improve its manure system.

As head of the family, Jack has the final say on what moves forward but encourages participation from everyone.

“We want everyone to be able to say what is on their mind about what we can do better,” Jack says. “It is the little things that people notice that make the big things go. We discuss a topic until we reach agreement.”

Kempisty notes, “Jack is a naturally good communicator. He takes good notes and leads a forward-thinking farm family. The team has developed strong communication skills, enhanced herd health, and successfully involved the next generation.”