Good to Great - Goal Setting

Good to Great - Goal Setting

What makes a good producer great? Over the next few weeks we will be covering 5 key qualities that push good producers to be great producers. These qualities can be applied to everyone from the back-yard farmer to those with large calf ranches.

The fourth quality we will be discussing is goal setting. We all have a dream to have a low cost of production with a high return, but how do we get there? It’s setting micro goals on a daily basis to get to the big goal. I recently had the opportunity to visit with Brooke Vanderloop of the AVA Group, Inc. Brooke and her mom Colleen raise heifers from one closed farm in Wisconsin, USA.  As a hobby they also raise 100-150 bull calves per year from the same farm.

When Brooke returned to the home after college they also started consulting and sharing their calf raising experience on a website and on social media! You can find them on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok! The Ava Group, Inc. also have a special Facebook group  available free to join where producers can interact, ask questions, and learn from one another!

The Ava Group, Inc. are very goal driven. Here are some thoughts from Brooke on what setting and accomplishing goals looks like for them!

Financial Goals:

We set a lot of financial goals at the beginning of the year. We take a look at the past year and look forward to the next, and what we would like to accomplish financially.

Calf Raising Goals:

We don't necessarily write these down on paper, but we have a few over-arching goals, that have been the same for the past three years.

  1. Main over-arching goal is reach 2 lbs. of gain per day by 12 weeks age.
  2. We are constantly looking at data as we go. We move calves in groups of 80.  At that time we look at medications used, and any other issues we might have. Calves from the data set are 12 weeks old. We then apply new strategies to the next group of calves that come in.
  3. We are always looking for new ways to increase efficiency. We like to find new ways to make things faster and easier without hurting calf health and performance.
  4. We are always trying to keep our death loss low, and shoot to be under 2%. We have accomplished this every year except for 2020, because of a salmonella outbreak. It wasn’t fun, but I am thankful for the knowledge I gained from the experience. I was fresh out of school it humbled me and I learned a lot.
  5. One management goal we have set is to do more employee fun stuff. One time we took our employees bowling. I would like to do that again, and maybe implement some other things like, Waffle Wednesdays. Fun stuff like that so employees know that we appreciate them.
  6. We work hard to keep open dialogue between the source farm and us so we can improve as a team, make better cows, save money all round, and make decisions off shared data.

Steps taken to achieve goals:

Each goal is a little different. For average daily gain (ADG) we look at 2 sides of the coin. We have started looking more at cost per pound of gain. It helps us see how the money is getting spent and helps us know what we are actually getting for it. I always used to be ashamed of our ADG from brith through 12 weeks of age, 1.6-1.7 lbs./day. It seems like everyone brags about getting 2.0 lbs/day even early on. So we started measuring our total cost per pound of gain. We average $1.53/pound of gain through 12 weeks of age, and our feed representative couldn’t find anyone else in our area close to that. Part of that is our low labor cost. We only have 4 full time people and 3 part time people.  

We have also experimented with different starter grains, milk replacers, and amounts of milk to try and improve our ADG through nutrition. We’ve even tried everything health wise, different vaccines, supplements, probiotics. After extensively running our program through the mill, and after the salmonella situation we found a lot of our ADG has to do with calf handling in the first 24 hrs. This effects calf health and ADG. Investigation of what was happening on the source farm, helped a lot.

A lot of these goals we have set, but we haven’t reached them yet. I have learned a lot of it is being patient. At first, I tried to change everything at once.  But then learned we had to pick one thing at a time and just keep working towards it.

Celebration And Next Steps After Accomplishing A Goal

I’m not very good at celebrating! I am better at finding a new problem to move on to!  I kind of look at it like a list. All of our goals are on a list, and we just move to the next one. 

One thing we had a problem with was navel infections. This was before we had much open communication with the source dairy. We started compiling pictures and communicating with them. We started having success with the navel guard and got the source farm to use it too. I do feel like celebrating should be important, but I was just glad the navels were getting dipped!

I appreciate Brooke sharing all about goal setting at the AVA Group, Inc!  It was a lot of fun to hear her thoughts and what she has learned as they have overcome obstacles on their operation! Next week is the final week of our Good to Great Blog Series! You won't want to miss it!


Written by: Mariah Gull M.S.

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