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Labor Matters

RSS By: Dairy Today: Labor Matters, Dairy Today

Experts cover today’s key dairy labor issues and offer fool-proof techniques to optimize employee performance, sat­isfaction and longevity.

Are You Helping Your Employees in Their Success?

Aug 31, 2012

If not, you’re likely to spend too much time hiring and training new staff and doing the work of the missing workers.

Higginbotham 5 12   CopyBy Gerald Higginbotham, Ph.D, Micronutrients

As a dairy owners or manager, you face many challenges in attracting and keeping employees. You must not only compensate employees for the work performed, but you must also offer competitive benefits and training. If you do not succeed in attracting and keeping a skilled work force, you will spend an excessive amount of time hiring and training new employees and doing the work of the missing employees.

Good dairy managers are regularly challenged to find new ways to keep employees motivated and interested in their work. An important part of every manager’s job is that of continuing the development of the people who work under his/her direction to ensure a productive workforce and the on-going ability to meet changing job requirements.

Where to start

You should start your training effort by carefully thinking about your dairy’s goals and objectives, what work is to be performed, and the strengths and weaknesses of your dairy’s workforce. Then think carefully about the knowledge and skills needed to do the job. Knowing what a job requires and how well you want it done will give you information to make training decisions. Dairy managers must consider all employees fairly for training opportunities. Selection of employees for training must ensure that all employees are selected without regard to political preference, race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age or handicapped condition.

What is the training process?

The training process consists of:

1. Explaining and demonstrating correct task performance;
2. Helping workers to perform under supervision;
3. Allowing personnel to perform alone;
4. Evaluating worker performance; and
5. Coaching employees based on evaluation results (Billikopf, 2003).

These steps may have to be repeated a number of times before an employee will sufficiently grasp what needs to be done.

When training personnel, you may want to:

1. Continually assess workers’ level of understanding;
2. Gear training to the participants;
3. Present only a few concepts at a time;
4. Where needed, divide tasks into simplified components;
5. Involve all workers;
6. Use visual aids (e.g. proper mastitis tube insertion); and
7. Encourage questions (Billikopf, 2003).

Where to get training assistance?

There are various private and public entities that can provide assistance in the training of your dairy employees. Veterinary clinics, artificial insemination companies as well as other dairy related industries may offer periodic hands-on training for dairy employees. Public organizations such as Cooperative Extension may also offer training such as educational seminars or short-courses that may cover topics such as milking management, herd health or other dairy herd related topics. Such educational activities have been well received, especially from non-English speaking dairy employees.

Any training that is conducted should explain the reasons for a certain practice and why that practice needs to be conducted. For example, you may train your milkers in allowing for proper milk let-down, but are they taught why that is important?

For your training program to be successful, training must be both desired by the employee and beneficial to the company. It also critical that employers follow up on training to ensure it produces value for the company. A well thought out training program will assist your employees in being successful in whatever task they are responsible for.

Billikopf, G. E., 2003. Helping workers acquire skills in Labor Management in Agriculture. 2nd Edition, University of California, ANR publication 3417.

Dr. Gerald Higginbotham is Ruminant Business Manager in California for Micronutrients, a Division of Heritage Technologies, LLC. He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah and Ph.D degree from the University of Arizona. Dr. Higginbotham is a member of the American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists and is a diplomat of the American College of Animal Sciences. Contact him at 559-907-8013 or

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