Have you ever said to yourself, “Managing the cows is easy, but managing our staff is hard”? If you have, you aren’t alone. A 2009 survey of large dairies and feedlots found that staffing/personnel issues were second only to unpredictable milk and commodity pricing on the list of major challenges facing agriculture businesses today.

It is easy to see why that is. People work in agriculture for many different reasons, but they usually aren’t in the dairy business to manage people.

When did managing staff become such a challenge? Think of the history of your dairy. When the dairy started, one person was likely able to do all the work.

Then other family members came on board to help out as it grew. As the operation grew even more, part-time employees were hired to work.

Then came full-time workers, and someone had to manage those employees. As dairies continue to grow, people management is becoming increasingly more important to the success of the operation.


Hiring qualified employees, starting them successfully, employee retention and employee training/ development are all important parts of running a successful dairy.

Investing in an effective employee management program can give your dairy a competitive advantage by improving employee productivity and commitment, developing and growing leaders at all levels of your dairy and increasing employee retention. All of these things can lead to a more profitable operation through increased efficiency at many levels.

Why people management matters
Overall, employees who are engaged in their work environment are better workers. They enjoy coming to work, feel a connection with the operation and work harder.

A Work USA report saw a 26 percent increase in productivity due to engaged employees. Similar to that, a Towers Perrin Global Workforce Study found that companies with high employee engagement had a 19 percent higher operating income.

High employee turnover is one place your dairy can be losing money. The American Management Association states employee turnover can cost an operation as much as two times an employee’s annual salary.

There are many reasons why employees are asked to or decide to leave. One reason could be because of managers. Workplace research shows that 50 percent of what keeps employees engaged in their work is their relationship with their immediate supervisor.

Think about your dairy’s middle managers. Often, dairy owners and operators will promote a hard-working or longtime employee to a managerial role as a reward for dedication.

However, those people who do their own functional jobs well might never have received training to help them learn how to best manage people. Coming in behind only the wages received, the management style of an operation is the second-most-important job-satisfaction factor for employees and a critical piece to employee retention.

What problems you might see
Here are some indicators you might have a managerial problem on your dairy.

• Increase in employee turnover: Functional workers are suddenly leaving at a higher rate, and newly hired employees aren’t staying for long.

• Failure to follow standard operating procedures: Steps for tasks that had been completed correctly before are not being followed.

• Lack of efficiency: Projects and jobs are taking more time and people than necessary.

• Lack of communication: Workers seem confused about what to do or who is completing certain tasks.

Enrolling your managers in a training program can help. Just as these employees needed training when they started working on your dairy, they need training to develop their leadership skills.

After taking part in a training program, dairy owners have commented that their managers are much better at their management role. The employees communicate better, take on more responsibilities, grow as individuals and become better team members.

In general, investing in people management programs can help with recruiting, training, development, retention, productivity, engagement and efficiency that not only bring a competitive advantage to your dairy but also deliver results for your business.

Not only can your operation be more profitable from investing in your employees, but you can have peace of mind that your dairy is in good hands whether you are there or not. PD


Put human capital to work on your dairy
Created after hearing about and seeing challenges from customers who provide work for a large number of employees, PeopleFirst is the industry’s first comprehensive human capital solutions service and is provided by Pfizer Animal Health.

The service provides dairy owners and managers proper people management skills though customized training programs.

The service addresses a number of employee management issues such as recruiting and training new employees, developing leadership of middle managers and organizing a human resources department during sessions tailored to fit a producer’s specific needs.

Seminars and standardized sessions in employee engagement, communication and accountability also are offered. All programs work toward creating a workplace of highly engaged, productive and efficient employees.

Programs and seminars can be taught in English and Spanish. Program instructors have operational experience and many years of management training experience and come from a variety of agriculture and executive positions.

Developed with input from dairy producers, owners and managers, this program promotes human and animal well-being and performance.

BOTTOM RIGHT: To learn more about the program, contact a Pfizer Animal Health representative.


Nicolas Buttars
Labor Management Specialist
Pfizer Animal Health