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Human resource management on modern dairy farms - winter workshops in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota

Chuck Schwartau
Regional Extension Educator
December 8, 2012

Today’s dairy farmer no longer manages only cows. Increasingly, today’s farmer is managing people as much, or maybe even more, than they are managing cows. This is the result of larger herds and the desire for farm families to have a life off the farm. Most farmers have not been as well trained in school or by their co-ops in personnel management as they have in nutrition or health management. Future success on the dairy farm will depend on that kind of training offered by professionals in the field.

Developing the necessary management skills doesn’t happen overnight, and they are difficult to achieve without some guidance along the way. There are plenty of books and articles published today on the topic of human resource management, but using them to develop a complete workforce plan becomes difficult. It’s a bit like following a recipe developed at sea level in South Carolina and trying to bake the bread in Denver, Colorado. Just as 5000 feet of altitude makes baking different, the individuality of dairy farms makes workforce management just a little different on each one. There are common concepts, but situations often dictate a variation on the recipe.

For one thing, it helps to have other people with whom you can interact as you develop your skills and hone the tools. Another factor is holding oneself accountable for development and implementation. Why do many successful weight loss plans or exercise plans include a personal consultant or a group meeting? It is because when someone else is monitoring your progress, you are more likely to stick to a plan. That person often helps develop the personal plan as well; helping you get it right for your situation.

The same is true for developing and implementing a workforce management plan. Sharing your questions, thoughts and experiences with others leads to a better final product for everyone involved. Working with a group and a coach also forces you to actually work on the plan because you will all be discussing it together at the next meeting.

It is with this background that a series of workshops will be offered this winter by the University of Minnesota Extension, South Dakota State University Extension and North Dakota State University Extension. “Human Resource Management on Modern Dairy Farms” workshops are built around the concept that the workforce on a dairy farm is a valuable asset to be nurtured and managed so their efforts are more productive and their job satisfaction enhanced. Labor is not just a cost to the business, but it is the fuel that gets the work done and achieves success.

During the 4-session workshop, producers will:

The workshops will include guided practice sessions to determine your farm’s workforce needs, write job descriptions, recruit, screen and interview candidates, and make sound hiring decisions.

Once employees are hired it is essential to keep them motivated and engaged in the farm business. Sessions are devoted to establishing appropriate relationships with employees, creating performance expectations and measuring them, providing training, and learning how to offer effective feedback to employees.

Finally, once you have the employees you need and want on the farm, it is important to retain the good employees you have. The workshops will share compensation options and career management tools that lead to satisfied and productive employees.

The series is offered at the following locations and dates. All locations are 4 days of total workshop time.