Cooperative “Difference” Creates Opportunity for Shared Management Approach

Chris Sigurdson has worked in the dairy and beef industries for over 30 years. Today, he jokes that he has more than 20 bosses, literally. Sigurdson is the general manager/CEO of both COBA/Select Sires Inc. and Minnesota Select Sires Co-op, Inc. In late 2021, Sigurdson began leading the two farmer-owned cooperatives in a shared role meant to help the companies boost members’ value and continue meeting the changing needs of dairy and beef producers across the United States  and in Mexico.

Context Lays Groundwork for Shared Management Approach

As bovine genetics companies, Minnesota Select Sires Co-op, Inc., and COBA/Select Sires Inc. have faced evolving marketplaces in their decades of operation, including substantial consolidation of dairy farms, technological and genetic innovations, and increases in operating costs. In particular, changes in the dairy industry have had important impacts on the two cooperatives –  a high proportion of production dairies in the United States use artificial insemination for breeding.

COBA/Select Sires Inc. and Minnesota/Select Sires Co-op, Inc. are both members of the federated cooperative, Select Sires, Inc. headquartered in Plain City, Ohio, and owned by six farmer-owned cooperatives. In 2021, Select Sires, Inc. members considered a proposal to unify the federation into a single cooperative that did not ultimately move forward. However, having a shared background as members in a cooperative federation, being similarly structured as farmer-owned cooperatives, sharing a desire to continue serving farmer-owners, and with COBA/Select Sires planning for the retirement of their general manager, the two boards decided to move forward with a shared general manager/CEO position in late 2021. COBA/Select Sires, Inc. is governed by a 15-member board, while Minnesota Select Sires Co-op, Inc. is governed by a nine-member board.

Shared Resource Opportunities May Create Efficiencies

COBA/Select Sires serves farmers in Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Mexico, and portions of Indiana, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, while Minnesota/Select Sires’ service territory includes Minnesota and North Dakota. The two companies have a combined portfolio of $53 million in business and more than 170 employees. In addition to his own leadership position, Sigurdson cites shared resource opportunities like leveraging marketing communications across companies, creating career pipelines and potential connections to new talent, and potential operational opportunities in shipping, storage, and business systems, among others, that might help the two cooperatives reach their goal of effectively serving farmer-members while lowering expenses per unit sold.

Multiple blue gears with various business related graphics inside, such as a light bulb, people, and target.

Sigurdson Shares Approach at Online Cooperative Roundtable

Sigurdson spoke about the reasons for the shared management approach, his role, and opportunities for additional resource sharing among the two companies to cooperative stakeholders during a recent online “Cooperative Roundtable” hosted by the CFAES Center for Cooperatives at Ohio State in partnership with the Mid America Cooperative Council (MACC).

Cooperative Roundtables are online learning opportunities hosted by the CFAES Center for Cooperatives and MACC as opportunities to learn from industry experts about current issues facing the cooperative community. Past roundtable topics have included strategic talent planning, cybersecurity in agribusiness, and recognizing diversity and inclusion among co-op members, among other topics. Sign up for the CFAES Center for Cooperatives email list to receive information about future Cooperative Roundtables.

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