Only As Good as the Help

September 7, 2010 06:27 AM

ZachMyers 125x125

Zach Myers 

Jonesville, N.C.

Myers Dairy, in the Appalachian foothills, is home to 830 Holsteins and 700 replacements.



July prices


(3.5% bf, 2.9% prt) $18.05/cwt.

Cull cows

Springing heifers $1,500/head

Ground corn $180/ton

Soybean meal $397/ton

Alfalfa hay
Don’t use

Don’t use

A company is only as good as its employees. To be successful, you must hire and keep quality people. They must be made to feel welcome, appreciated and part of the team.


No one position is more important than any other. Each job is dependent on some other aspect that is someone else’s responsibility. Certainly, some positions require different skills that may give an individual more responsibility. For instance, my herdsman has more responsibility than the milkers, but he can’t do his job as efficiently if the milkers don’t do their job. If my herdsman has to spend more time treating sick cows, he may be rushed in checking heats and not get as many cows pregnant. The milkers can’t successfully perform their job if I don’t keep the milking equipment in good working order.

Most of my labor force is Latino, and most of my employee turnover comes from the milking position. I have seven milkers (two per shift with one relief milker). I have learned that I have less turnover if I let my herdsman find and recommend replacements for the people who leave. I know some Spanish, but my herdsman knows Hispanic culture and personalities better than I.

Prior to letting him select the replacements, every employee I hired without his recommendation left within a matter of weeks, sometimes days. In hiring international employees, it is imperative to understand the cultures of the people you are hiring as well as the personalities of the current workforce.

I have a quarterly training session with the milkers through an interpreter where we go over milking procedures and the steps to follow to maximize herd health and milk quality. We set goals and, if those goals are reached in the agreed time frame, we have a pizza party.

Three years ago, I started paying an incentive to employees based on the monthly average somatic cell count. As the SCC lowers, the incentive increases. The top rate is equivalent to a $1/hour pay raise. This not only motivates the employees but helps me maximize milk quality. Since initiating the incentive program, our annual average SCC has decreased.

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