Tag Archive for: Dairy Success

During the last 23 years of my consulting work, there have been times when my life has seemed like a cross between two of my favorite movies, Catch Me If You Can and Up In The Air. Here’s a quote from the Actor Christopher Walken in Catch Me If You Can that I believe you will find appropriate for our discussion that follows:

  • Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse, wouldn’t quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out. Gentlemen, as of this moment, I am that second mouse.”

My question for you is this: As you face industry challenges or ones that are specific to your operation, which one are you?

I’ve been called crazy for doing some of the work that I’ve completed these past 23 years, but you know what? I love doing this work. Is it challenging and occasionally frustrating? Yes. Can it be difficult at times? Yes, but if it was easy, everyone would be doing it and take all of the profit out of the process.

How do I do this? I recently reviewed my records and discovered that I’ve completed 73 financial turnarounds with Clients since 1999. That’s a lot of change! Some of these rescue missions have taken 1-2 years; others have taken 5 years or more. Some of them, following their financial recovery, decided it was time to exit their industry. The great thing on these was that they were positioned to sell out and walk away with sufficient proceeds to live the rest of their lives successfully. That news helps me to sleep at night.

So where are you in your current operation? Many industries, especially on dairies today, are facing some dire outlooks, but it doesn’t have to be that way. As the saying goes, “The best time to plant an oak tree was 20 years ago.” However, the next best time is today.

Here are some thoughts for you as you think about this question of what should happen next:

  1. Begin with what I call the Discovery Process. Where do you want to go and Why? If you can answer these two questions, step #2 is easier.
  2. Complete an analysis of where you are today, in terms of assets, debts and overall cash flows. This information provides the building blocks for your success plan.
  3. Outline and discuss the challenges that you will face in your next steps. My next blog will be focusing on just that topic.
  4. Evaluate what Cash Flows will be required to make it all happen successfully.
  5. Talk to your banker. Please don’t tell me this is too tough… I’ve faced off with large banks where the Client owed $6 million and had almost no collateral. What could we do? We simply built a repayment plan and worked through it successfully. The one thing I knew going in was that there was a solution. They just hadn’t identified it. If they had, my input wouldn’t have been needed. My saying that I was sure there was a solution may sound arrogant to you, but trust me. After you’ve completed 73 of these turnarounds, you start to understand that the answer, indeed, is out there. We just have to dig it up!
  6. Once you determine your plan of action, track your Cash Flows and always know where you are throughout the year. I treat CF Analysis the same as MacDonald’s founder Ray Kroc did the hamburger. Recall what he said? “I didn’t invent the hamburger. I just took it more seriously than anyone else.” It’s the same for me with Cash Flow Analysis!

Once again, are you drowning or climbing out of the bucket of cream? If I can assist you, please let me know. I’m happy to help.

Let’s take your business to the Next Level!

As the cost of buildings on your operation continue to rise each year, you certainly wouldn’t think of not covering their replacement with adequate insurance. Yet, have you done the same thing with the primary source of revenue in your business?

For most dairymen, Milk Sales represent 85-90% of their total revenue streams. This would seem completely prudent, given the increased levels of volatility in the dairy markets… It’s been almost two years since the introduction of the Dairy Revenue Protection (DRP) Program, but are you using it?

If you study the program, it is a fairly straightforward method for placing a floor under the milk price you receive at your dairy. You can choose to protect your Class 3 price, your Class 4 price or you can use your components as the basis for protecting your milk price, assuming that fits your operation better. The key question here is – Have you looked into DRP yet? If not, please do so soon.

I believe you can go ahead up to five calendar quarters. Of course, since the price protection is based upon the use of “Put Options,” which place a floor under your prices received, the longer into the future you contract, the greater the cost of those Put Options will likely be. Their cost can also increase when markets are more volatile (such as this year…) and if you select higher price coverage levels (e.g. $18/cwt vs. $16/cwt.)

However, there is some good news on the cost front. Currently, the federal government is subsidizing the cost of the DRP options by about 40-45%, so if an option costs $0.60/cwt in the open market, your net cost through DRP will likely be about $0.36/cwt. So, how do they pay out?

At the end of each quarter, if the market prices have been higher than those you had set as a floor in the DRP program, these Put Options will expire unused, and, unfortunately, you will receive a bill for the cost of that quarter’s Puts. That’s the bad news. The good news is that since the market was stronger than the level you had set for coverage, you should have been receiving higher milk prices & thus be able to pay this premium. And, please remember that you can do less than all of your milk; I believe you can also set this up with multiple tiers of coverage, e.g. 25% of your milk one week and then another 25% the following week. The costs of the two 25% coverages may be different, but as long as you contract before the required deadline (around the 15th of the month before the next quarter begins), you’ll be covered for the level you select. You can also go into your DRP account every day, if you wish, to monitor your progress/potential payout levels.

Is this DRP program perfect? Probably not. I’m certain that if we study it long enough, we can likely find some characteristic we don’t like… However, it can put a “floor” under your overall milk price received, the premiums are government subsidized, you have numerous different input factors that you can use (e.g. Class 3, Class 4 or Components), and you don’t even pay the premiums until the month following the quarter for which you were covered. As a result, you can pay the “premiums” out of the DRP coverage you received or out of the higher milk prices you collected if your DRP coverage didn’t kick in.

Yes, you will be out the cost of the Put Options, but do you call your insurance agent at the end of the year if your house doesn’t burn down, despite having it insured? I didn’t think so…

Given the higher levels of volatility due to market conditions, unforeseen events such as COVID-19, or disdain for some variables in our trade agreements, don’t you owe it to yourself to be covered? Take action now! I wish you the best of success!

If I can assist you in any way, please let me know at john@success-strategies.com or 209-988-8960.