Having a successful dairy farm enterprise can be achieved in a multitude of ways.  Even though no two farms are exactly alike, where there is success there is a business person with dreams, goals and plans that get put into action.  Invariably there are five key factors that the business manager monitors closely on a continual basis.  These factors are often referred to as Key Performance Indicators.

Choose YOUR Key Indicators

Each farm and farm manager has individual needs and factors that need attention at any given time.  One way to get started on knowing your KPIs is to consider six main areas.

  1. Daily output
  2. Nutrition program
  3. Animal reproduction
  4. Heifer rearing
  5. Animal health and disease
  6. Genetics and Marketing

A good recommendation is to focus on one performance indicator from each of the six areas:

Daily Output

  • Milk yield per cow per dairy
  • Fat plus Protein yield per cow per day
  • Milk revenue per cow per day
  • Daily revenue less feed cost per cow per day
  • Milk sold per worker per year


  • Dry matter intake per cow per day
  • Feed cost per cow per day
  • Cost per ton for feed consumed by the milking herd


  • AI services per conception
  • Percent of cows detected in heat by 90 days in milk
  • Pregnancy rate
  • Days Open
  • Calving Interval

Heifer Rearing

  • Live heifer calves per hundred milking cows per year
  • Percent of heifer calves ,born live, that enter the milking herd
  • Rearing cost per heifer
  • Age at first calving

Animal Health and Disease

  • Cull rate from the milking herd
  • Average weighted SCC per cow
  • Days between mastitis onsets
  • Vet and medicine costs per cow per year
  • Number of lame cow incidents per 100 cows per year

Genetics, Sales and Marketing

  • Breeding stock revenue per cow per year
  • Average TPI or LPI or Net Merit per pregnancy
  • Average classification score for first calvers
  • Number of farm website hits per month
  • Total annual revenue per worker per year

How To Get Started:

The task of developing a KPI program for a herd can be daunting. Suggestions on getting started include:

  • While relaxing in the evening for a week jot down some areas you feel could be improved on your farm
  • Give your list to your vet, your accountant and your feed advisor and ask them to comment
  • Narrowing the list down to five making sure they are numbers easily obtained from your DHI records, your herd management software or your farm financial software.
  • Start by getting the historical numbers for the past year
  • Set goals you wish to achieve in one year`s time
  • Keep the process dynamic including changing the list annually, if necessary
  • Do not make the list too long.  Five is a good number.


Dairy cattle breeders tend not to speak in terms of profit per cow per year.  More often their bragging points are in terms of animal records or enterprise performance.  Yet it is profit per cow that covers living costs, provides return on investment, pays for kids’ college educations and keeps the banker happy.  It is strongly recommended that at least one of the five KPIs should be a measure of dollar revenue, feed costs or net returns.


Relating genetics to farm management and farm profit is not always an easy twosome to bring together.  However, for success there must be measures that can be continually monitored so that farm managers can make informed decisions or take corrective actions.  Find your key performance indicators and grow your profits.