Labor Matters: Aim for a Fast Start

May 6, 2015 05:07 AM
Labor Matters: Aim for a Fast Start

If you gather a group of dairy farmers and start a conversation about calves, you will soon hear this phrase: “Get them off to a fast start.” In most cases, that means getting adequate, quality colostrum into the calves. It

ChuckSchwartau photo
Chuck Schwartau, is regional director at the University of Minnesota.

also entails paying attention to those calves every day. Why shouldn’t new employees on a dairy be afforded that same “fast start?” I’m certainly not advocating tube-feeding a few quarts of colostrum to new employees, but they have a similar need for quality information, assistance and attention in the first few weeks of their employment. The success of a new employee hinges very heavily on how well that staff person is brought into the culture of a farm as well as the work.

I often use the question, “Where do I park my car?” as an opener for orientation. Employees need to know the basics of coming to work and being an employee on the farm. A simple tour of the farm is a good place to start. That tour is a good opportunity to talk about other basic topics including:

  • Where do we eat lunch?  Where do I keep my lunch?  When do we have breaks?
  • Is there a staff locker room and shower?  Where is the bathroom?
  • Where do I report for work? Who is my immediate supervisor? With whom do I work? Who else works on the farm?
  • Where are time cards kept?  When are they turned in?  From whom do I receive my paycheck and when?
  • If I am unable to come to work, who do I call?
  • What are expectations of language, conduct, dress, safety practices and locations of safety equipment?
  • What are the expectations of animal care?

Orientation doesn’t have to fall entirely on the farm owner. As new employees get to know the rest of the staff, they can all be a part of on-going orientation. It will help build the team on the farm.
The sooner new hires don’t feel like an outsider, the sooner they will be high-performing employees. 

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