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Make Some Time for Employee Management

Libby Eiholzer, Bilingual Dairy
Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops

Last Modified: June 14, 2013

For the most part, area dairy farms have chopped all their corn and packed all of their feed bunks. The field work is almost finished, and hopefully so are some of the tasks on the to-do list. The winter season offers dairy managers extra time to devote to other tasks such as herd health, calf care and reproduction performance. There is one task that should be on that list: employee management, especially with Hispanic employees. This task doesn't usually rate very high on the list, if it makes the list at all, but can make a great difference in employee morale, employee retention, farm efficiency and profitability. Two methods effective methods of employee management are to hold regular staff meetings and to offer individual employee evaluations.

Staff Meetings
A regular staff meeting is a great way to have a general, open forum to discuss farm issues such as overall employee performance, jobs to be done, upcoming events, scheduling, etc. Itís also a great way to bring together the entire team of employees that make the farm work. Different shifts of employees may rarely get the chance to meet each other, so the staff meeting can help get everyone on the same page and build a sense of teamwork- which is crucial to implementing a consistent milking routine. Furthermore, discussions are likely to occur in these staff meetings and questions are likely to be asked. Listen to what comes out of the discussion and be receptive to feedback from the employees. This can easily be done with the help of a bilingual person that can facilitate the meeting, even a bilingual employee of the farm could help. The farm manager should create the agenda which should be organized and planned. The meeting can be integrated with English-speaking employees, or separate meetings can be held. Remember: staff meetings should address general farm issues. Refrain from reprimanding or praising an individual in front of the group.

Employee Evaluations
In my experience, this is the most beneficial, yet commonly ignored human resource practice on dairy farms. Individualized evaluations may seem like a lot of work, but they really donít have to be. The first step is to create a checklist, rubric or other type of form that contains the criteria on which you would like to evaluate your employees. Some of these include: punctuality, cow treatment, milking routine performance, teamwork/gets along with coworkers, etc. Donít forget to leave a section for notes, as they are very helpful for the interpreter. Evaluate your employees, one by one or shift by shift and schedule meetings that fit your time schedule. 20 minutes should be enough for each employee, so schedule about 3 per hour. They donít all have to be done on the same day; itís easier if the meetings are held periodically, rotating the employees. As mentioned earlier, it is okay to use a bilingual employee to translate staff meetings. For employee evaluations, however, a third-party translator is a must. In the meetings, use direct communication and listen to the employee (not the translator.) Try to be as fair and judicious in your remarks as possible and always offer an opportunity for the employee to respond.

Staff meetings and employee evaluations, when used properly, can have enormous impact on your operation. They do require some groundwork to be done by the farm manager, but the end result is improved communication, employee productivity and teamwork. On farms where I have helped with these meetings I have seen a stark improvement in employee attitude and morale- which may be the most valuable result. Please consider these two tools for managing employees on your farm.











calendar of events

Upcoming Events

Dairy Cattle Summer Research Update

July 18, 2019
Batavia, NY

After the day's work is done, come hear about two new research trials conducted by Julio Giordano's lab:
  • Strategies for improving dairy cattle reproductive performance and economics
  • Using automated sensors for improving dairy cattle health monitoring and management

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Weed Resistance Management Demonstration and Plot Tour

Event Offers DEC Credits

July 23, 2019
1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Waterloo, NY

Come join us on July 23 in Seneca County at Quinten Good's farm for a demonstration and walking tour of 16 different pre- and post-emergence treatments in soybean and 12 different treatments and combinations in corn.
  • Tall waterhemp and marestail are two weeds that are resistant to glyphosate and ALS herbicide modes of action in the WNY and Finger Lakes regions.
  • Each year the number of acres with resistant weed populations expands.
  • For herbicides to be an effective tool in weed management, we have to know what chemistries & application timings are most effective against these resistant weeds.

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Pasture Walk with the Finger Lakes Graziers

July 29, 2019
12:45 - 4 pm
Waterloo, NY

Join the Finger Lakes Graziers on a pasture walk and learn about soil health. 
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USDA Announces New Decision Tool for New Dairy Margin Coverage Program

WASHINGTON, April 30, 2019 ? Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced today the availability of a new web-based tool - developed in partnership with the University of Wisconsin - to help dairy producers evaluate various scenarios using different coverage levels through the new Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program.

The 2018 Farm Bill authorized
DMC, a voluntary risk management program that offers financial protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all milk price and the average feed cost (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer. It replaces the program previously known as the Margin Protection Program for Dairy. Sign up for this USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) program opens on June 17.

"With sign-up for the
DMC program just weeks away, we encourage producers to use this new support tool to help make decisions on participation in the program," Secretary Perdue said. "Dairy producers have faced tough challenges over the years, but the DMC program should help producers better weather the ups and downs in the industry."

The University of Wisconsin launched the decision support tool in cooperation with FSA and funded through a cooperative agreement with the USDA Office of the Chief Economist. The tool was designed to help producers determine the level of coverage under a variety of conditions that will provide them with the strongest financial safety net. It allows farmers to simplify their coverage level selection by combining operation data and other key variables to calculate coverage needs based on price projections.

The decision tool assists producers with calculating total premiums costs and administrative fees associated with participation in
DMC. It also forecasts payments that will be made during the coverage year.

The new Dairy Margin Coverage program offers very appealing options for all dairy farmers to reduce their net income risk due to volatility in milk or feed prices," said Dr. Mark Stephenson, Director of Dairy Policy Analysis, University of Wisconsin, Madison. "Higher coverage levels, monthly payments, and more flexible production coverage options are especially helpful for the sizable majority of farms who can cover much of their milk production with the new five million pound maximum for Tier 1 premiums. This program deserves the careful consideration of all dairy farmers."

For more information, access the tool at For
DMC sign up, eligibility and related program information, visit or contact your local USDA Service Center. To locate your local FSA office, visit

New Guidance for Mortality Disposal Issued

NYS Department of Ag and Markets has posted guidelines on disposal of livestock carcasses, in response to reports that some rendering companies have halted pickups from farms.|1