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Mar 31, 2000 - Today's competitive marketplace dispenses little grace to dairy farmers who don't keep track of their financial status–and the average price they need per hundredweight this year just to break even.

For Wisconsin dairy producers Deb Reinhart and her husband David Geiser, the I-DRMER program might be the next step in continuing their business education.

They began to regard their family farm as a business enterprise about five years ago, when they attended one of the first strategic planning sessions in Wisconsin designed to help dairy producers zero in on the business aspect of farming. They walked away with a marketing plan in hand.

"We're taking this managerial learning process one step at a time," said Reinhart. "Learning the skills to survive in today's world market is complex and ongoing."

The lessons have been learned well by the couple–their dairy farm business is not only coping but thriving. Five years ago, they began an expansion that upped a 75-cow herd to 180. "It took two years for us to feel like we were running the business instead of it running us," said Reinhart. "If we decide to grow again, we would go to 350-450 cows."

"Soon, we'll have to make a big financial decision about expanding the herd, depending on what the numbers look like. But I still want to sleep at night. We'll be looking at production costs, the return on our investment, our debt to asset ratios. Finding the risk management and managerial resources to justify our decision is not easy."

I-DRMER's educational program of managerial and risk management tools will help Deb and David and other dairy producers nationwide who need to get a handle on the business end of their farms.