Dr. Sandy Costello is the owner and chief dairy management consultant at her dairy service practice, Milk Quality Pays. This small business is based in the eastern United States and was developed in 2011 as a way to actively focus on the diverse needs of clients. Milk Quality Pays works with all size dairy farms, whether they have rotary parlors, Hispanic labor, and lots of cows, or have high-fat dairy breeds to produce and sell organically-certified cheese to a local niche market. Milk Quality Pays also works with small service and product-based dairy businesses dedicated to working with producers to help improve their businesses and diversity of products offered. Meeting client needs means motivating, directing and redirecting the focus of management, workers, and service and product suppliers toward the farm’s economic and best practice goals. This results in a collective effort to improve animal health and welfare, as well as workforce environment which ultimately enhances quality milk production.
It can be difficult to effectively meet client goals for improved dairy management while working for a corporation with product sales and profitability goals not always aligned with producer needs and goals. Addressing client needs most often means serving as a team facilitator of key farm dairy management advisors including the herd veterinarian, banker, nutritionist, and milking machine dealership. This often involves communicating quickly and unifying team members when key performance indicators veer from farm goals. In the current dairy economic climate where margins between milk income and production costs are low, meeting client goals often means acting as cheer-leader on and off-farm as to why quality work matters to achieving quality results.
Milk Quality Pays was developed to enable one-on-one supportive work with clients. This is in contrast to the one-time visit to the farm approach which is followed up with a report of recommended fixes. Decades of experience has proven how difficult it is to motivate change using that method, regardless of how simple or involved the risk assessment. Without in-person discussions, to explain the economics and reinforce the ‘whys’ of recommendations, positive change often takes longer. The small business model, like employed by Milk Quality Pays also allows for flexibility and quick adaptation to client needs. For example, alternative business and financial resources are available through non-profit organizations funded by federal, state, and regional sources. Milk Quality Pays works with partners to identify these resources and provides connections to dairy producers for specific projects.
Dr. Costello is a lifelong learner and believes that continual skills development is essential to self-growth, generating excitement for work, becoming aware of new opportunities for dairy producers and allied industry, and for helping others in the dairy industry. Sandy holds a Postdoctoral diploma from Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine Department of Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences for her work with Quality Milk Production Services (QMPS) where she led development of
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