scenic farmstead at sunrise
COMMUNICATE: With the day-to-day chores that need to be done on a farm, it can be challenging to find time to sit down and talk with key farm partners about their goals and the future of the farm.

Father and child must be on same page

Agrivision: Take it slow when transferring farm management duties to a son or daughter.

I am 38 years old, and I farm with my dad, who is 62 years old. We milk 110 cows and farm 300 acres. My dad is slowing down a bit, and I’m wondering if we would be better off concentrating on the cows and letting someone else handle the fieldwork. What is the best way for us to go about that? Should we rent the land out on shares to a neighbor, hire a custom harvester to fill ag bags, or rent the land to our neighbor and purchase a custom total mixed ration from him?

The Agrivision panel includes: Doug Hodorff, Fond du Lac County, Wis., dairy farmer; Sam Miller, managing director, group head of agricultural banking, BMO Harris Bank; and Katie Wantoch, Dunn County, Wis., Extension ag agent specializing in economic development.

Hodorff: To better answer your question, I am reading between the lines that you think your cows could be managed better. I would say yes to concentrating on the cows. After all, all of your work revolves around the milk production. You know your financial position, so any of your options would work. First, do a partial budget on all your options. This should help you make a better financial decision. I would engage a business consultant to work with you on your budgets. Make sure you think through your options, because this decision will affect your operation into the future.

Miller: This sounds like a great time to re-examine the business to determine how best to operate. You list several choices for the cropping side of the operation. Contact your local Extension ag agent or farm technical college instructor for assistance in putting together partial budgets on each of these scenarios.  This will compare the costs and benefits of each of the options that you mention, and help guide your decision-making.

In addition to the financial considerations, think about quality of feeds, timeliness and selling off the equipment you will no longer need. Once you have examined the options, be certain to reduce any agreements to writing so both you and your tenant or custom operator know the expectations for each party. Good luck with your decision-making.

Wantoch: A dairy farm contains three key parts: cows, people and finances. It sounds like you are interested in focusing on the cattle enterprise of your farm operation and letting someone else focus on the other enterprises. What about the people piece? Is your dad on the same page as you with this plan? One of the common tensions I see within farm families is that assumptions are often made about what others are feeling or thinking rather than having actual conversations. With the day-to-day chores that need to be done on a farm, it can be challenging to dedicate time to sit down and talk with key farm partners about their goals and the future of the farm. I would encourage you to talk with your dad or ask a neutral party to help facilitate a conversation, such as a teacher, Extension agent, etc. Your goals may conflict, but you and your dad need to be on the same page, both moving forward and to the last piece to see how your plans would affect the farm’s finances. 

If you have questions you would like the panel to answer, send them to: Wisconsin Agriculturist, P.O. Box 236, Brandon, WI 53919; or email [email protected].

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