August 1996 // Volume 34 // Number 4 // Ideas at Work // 4IAW1

Previous Article Issue Contents Previous Article

DAIRY-MAP: A Cooperative Program Brings Individual Attention to Dairymen

A dairy management analysis program (DAIRY-MAP) is available to Georgia dairy producers. Individual producers discuss management topics of interest with a team of Extension dairy specialists. The program is a cooperative effort between specialists and agents. Specialists provide support materials including graphs and reports that are utilized in herd management analysis. Agents contact interested producers and schedule meetings. This program demonstrates the delivery of practical information through the county Extension agent and its application to specific producers.

James W. Smith
Associate Professor and Extension Dairy Scientist
Internet address:

Janet I. Rodekohr
Extension Editor/Educational Marketing Specialist

University of Georgia
Cooperative Extension Service
Athens, Georgia

How can a team of educators serve a small target group scattered throughout a large geographic area? University of Georgia Extension Service dairy specialists tackled that question to reach 600 dairy farms in 95 of Georgia's 159 counties. Many counties have fewer than five dairies, so a traditional dairy meeting is not a practical teaching tool for county Extension agents.

The dairy specialists initiated Dairy Herd Analysis meetings in 1987, offering personal visits to individual dairymen in selected counties. The county agent scheduled visits with producers, who were encouraged to bring up any topic for discussion with the team of two or three specialists.

The concept of these meetings worked well, so the dairy scientists expanded the idea in 1994 and offered it statewide, calling it DAIRY-MAP (Dairy Management Analysis Program). DAIRY- MAP continued the one-on-one discussion with producers and added additional information for producers enrolled in the Dairy Herd Improvement (DHI) program. DAIRY-MAP focuses on specific management problems for each producer, applying DHI information to evaluate and analyze dairy herd management.

Most dairy producers enrolled in DHI use the information to make decisions daily. They routinely use lists of cows to pregnancy check, cows to breed, and cows to dry off. Fewer producers use DHI information to analyze and evaluate herd management. But the accessibility of DHI data has created new educational opportunities. By electronically downloading data, Extension educators can create reports and graphs that help producers look at herd data more critically.

Herd data is available for downloading from the Dairy Records Processing Center located at North Carolina State University, Raleigh. This data is used to generate two reports and a series of 19 graphs. This information is assembled into a report that is presented to the producer at the beginning of a DAIRY-MAP session.

A herd summary comparison report is often used to initiate discussion and focus attention on management strengths and weaknesses. The report compares a herd's performance with other herds of the same breed and similar size in the Southeast. For each of 23 management parameters, the current values for the herd are listed along with the mean, top 25% and top 10% values for regional herds. This report answers the question of how a herd compares with other herds in certain critical management areas.

A second question concerns how a herd has performed over a period of time. A series of 19 graphs shows management trends for the past 18 months. Graphs provide the opportunity to quickly isolate management trends as well as further investigate weaknesses uncovered by the comparison report.

A three-month herd summary report summarizes specific management variables in an attempt to answer questions related to current herd performance. It provides a framework for discussion of current management concerns.

The success of DAIRY-MAP is dependent upon cooperation between specialists and agents. Agents are responsible for contacting interested producers. Since few counties have a large number of dairies, direct mail and personal contact work best. Specialists provide support materials to assist agents in advertising DAIRY-MAP. Materials include a sample letter announcing the program and a sample newsletter/news article. A brochure summarizes key aspects of the program. Agents schedule sessions at 90-minute intervals, usually in the county Extension office, although some meetings have been held at the farm. A schedule listing producer's name, time of session and any specific management concerns is mailed to the specialist, preferably a week before the meeting. Agents are encouraged to call each producer the day before the sessions as a reminder.

Agents and producers are asked to evaluate DAIRY-MAP sessions, providing specialists with input on program improvement. Producer evaluations can be incorporated into impact statements. DAIRY-MAP is an ideal method to collect material for an impact statement because it gives baseline data to track the progress of specific producers.

DAIRY-MAP is a time intensive educational program requiring advance preparation. Visits with individual producers by specialists mean that the total audience for a day will be small. An alternative in counties with more dairies is a group meeting. Reports and graphs are provided to individual producers showing data for their farm. Examples are used to describe management trends. Individual consultations, if desired, are arranged for a later date.

DAIRY-MAP is an example of the land-grant concept at work. It shows the delivery of practical, research-based information through the county Extension agent and its application by specific producers.