Improving the efficiency of dairy farms is the aim of a pilot project being run by Reaseheath College in Cheshire.

“Lean management for dairy farms” aims to gain continuous improvements in efficiency by concentrating on the key performance indicators for each part of the dairy production business.

Identifying the KPIs needed to meet budgetary targets and regularly recording and monitoring data in each of these areas could yield big savings, Reaseheath’s Kay Carson said.

Work on the initial pilot farm, 62ha Clive Hall, a dairy monitor farm in Cheshire, was expected to deliver a 15% reduction in unit costs of production after the first year, she said.

“A lot of the data is already there on farms, but it’s often kept or recorded in different places and different formats. A key feature of lean management is establishing a single electronic data ‘diary’ where everything is recorded on a regular basis.”

She identified the following key steps required within the lean management process and said it often required a “cultural mindset change” for farmers to get fully on board.

• Process planning: write down exactly what happens on the farm, identifying the people, plant and resources that will be managed

• Set the KPIs: identify the key performance indicators needed to meet budgets – covers everything from daily milk yields and grass growth, to insemination results and cell counts

• Data collection: establish a single electronic “diary” to record progress against KPIs on daily basis – should take about 10-15min a day to complete

• Review: regularly (weekly) review progress against KPIs – about one hour a week

• Action: examine why targets aren’t being met and take action to address – allow half a day a month to review performance