An employee handbook is an important document that all farms should have. The purpose of a handbook is to outline the expectations the farm has for their employees, as well as including rules and policies. Although the details of the contents of the handbook will vary from farm to farm, there are many online resources that can help your farm put together a handbook with the essential information. Here are a few employment policies to include in your handbook that are particularly beneficial to dairy farms.

Animal care and abuse prevention policy

It is crucial that every dairy has an animal care policy. This policy should include the farm’s views that all animals are to be treated with respect and never abused. This policy should outline the expectations the farm has for the employees to not only treat all animals with care, but to require they report any observation of abuse to a supervisor. It is also helpful to include a policy that there will never be retaliation for an employee reporting potential abuse. It is recommended to have an additional contract that each employee signs stating they understand, and will comply with, your animal care policy. This is important to show that you are proactive and discuss animal care and the prevention of abuse on your farm.

Visitor policy

A visitor policy is highly recommended for dairy farms. With the increasing incidence of activists showing up on farms, a visitor policy can help provide clear direction to your employees when they come across a stranger on the farm. This policy will outline what your protocol is for visitors. This may be that visitors are not allowed on the property without an appointment or that everyone must check in at the farm office. I would encourage you to include a clause that all visitors must be accompanied by a farm representative at all times. When training a new employee, make sure they understand your visitor policy so they can help be your first line of defense in recognizing and alerting the managers when there is an unauthorized person on the farm.


A very common but nonetheless important policy is the attendance policy. This should spell out what your expectations are for your employee’s attendance, what an employee should do if they are unable to make it to work, as well as the consequences of missing work. By providing a clear policy, you can ensure your employees have a guideline on attendance, as well as give yourself a standard to follow when dealing with attendance issues. It is important that you treat all employees equally when handling attendance issues.

Pay and raise policy

The policy on pay and raises should include your farm’s pay period, pay dates and timekeeping methods. You should also include if breaks are provided, whether employees are eligible for overtime, and how employees are paid (check, direct deposit, etc.). A crucial piece of this policy for dairy farms is a raise schedule. We highly recommend setting a raise and/or bonus schedule (and stick to it!). Even though having a schedule may not necessarily reduce your employees coming to you and asking for a raise, you can set their expectations correctly upon hire. If an employee does come to you for a raise outside of the normal schedule, it is very helpful to be able to refer to your policy when explaining how and when raises are given. If you have a separate bonus policy, you can include those details in this section as well.


An employee handbook is an important training material and will go a long way in helping set new employee’s expectations of how your farm is run. While these are only a few of the policies that are typically included in a handbook, they’re important to clarify and customize to your farm. A quick search online will help you put together a handbook that will be a great tool for your farm.   end mark

PHOTO: Mike Dixon.

Becky Rodriguez is with AgriStaff USA. Email Becky Rodriguez.