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Communicate With Your People, Not Just Your Cows

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

June 6, 2014

Over the past 50 years or so, many dairy farms have undergone significant growth. Farms that used to employ a workforce of only a handful of people with the same last name now look outside their families for additional workers. In the long run, this equates to fewer hours spent working directly with cows and equipment and more hours spent managing the people who work with the cows and equipment. Unfortunately, that?s not always as easy as it sounds; many farm managers have found that their cow skills don?t always translate to people skills. You may have noticed that the approach you use with your bovines doesn?t work as well with your humans.

What language do cows speak? English? Spanish? Chinese? When I?ve posed this question during animal handling trainings, the response I often get is ?all of the above!? It?s true, cows seem to respond to people in the same manner no matter what language they speak, and will listen without judgment to anything you have to say. Whether you realize it or not, you communicate with your cows using body language more than speech. And while your people surely do pay attention to body language, the words you use and especially the way you say them are more important than you may have realized.
What?s more, your employees want you to talk to them. When I translate for a meeting between English-speaking managers and Spanish-speaking employees, frequently the first question that the employees will have for their boss is ?How am I doing?? Though the boss may have just finished going through a list of things that have been done well and some that need improvement employees crave one-on-one contact and constructive feedback- positive or negative- from their boss. Some managers do a good job of addressing this question, if not on a day-to-day basis, then at least when they have a translator available.

As the growing season gets going, many managers spend more time by themselves in a tractor and less time on the ground working with employees. Don?t forget to make time to communicate with your team! While you certainly won?t have the time for one-on-one interaction like you do during less busy times of the year, setting aside time at the beginning of the month may make it a bit easier to follow through. Since you know it?s harder to fit in the time, be creative: send out a group text message, hold a quick meeting over coffee in the break room, or write a note to a group of employees who deserve congratulations on a job well done. Employees tend to become disgruntled when they don?t know what?s going on, so making the effort to keep them up-to-date on farm happenings and providing them with feedback on their performance can keep everyone happier in the long run.

Check out this video from Tom Wall of Dairy Interactive, offering some tips on how to create long-term dairy employees:

Looking for Agricultura? It?s been transformed to a quarterly newsletter with added content. To receive it, contact Libby Gaige: or 607-793-4847.











calendar of events

Upcoming Events

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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Income and Real Property Tax Primer-A Learning Circle for Women Non-Operating Land Owners of Ag Land

July 24, 2019
9:00 am - 3:00 pm
Portageville, NY

For many of us taxes can be a mystery, let's have a conversation with the experts about the tax considerations agricultural landowners need to think about. 
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Pasture Walk with the Finger Lakes Graziers-Cancelled!

July 29, 2019
12:45 - 4 pm

The Finger Lakes Graziers pasture walk has been cancelled due to some scheduling conflicts. 
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RMA Announces Additional One-time Changes to Prevented Planting Provisions

June 29, 2019

RMA Announces Additional One-time Changes to Prevented Planting Provisions
for 2019 Crop Year

In response to delayed and prevented planting resulting from above average rainfall and wetness, the USDA Risk Management Agency has made a one-time change to the 2019 crop year prevented planting rules that effectively allows silage corn, if planted as a cover crop following local agricultural expert guidelines, to be acceptable as a post-prevented planting cover crop. Under this one-time rule change, producers are allowed to produce this crop while retaining their prevented planting payment. This change couples with previously announced one-time changes to the prevented planting rules - including expanded acceptable uses for post-prevented planting cover crops and a change in the cover crop haying and grazing start date rule - serve to help those struggling to meet their forage needs due to the weather.

Read the full article from the New York Crop Insurance Education Program.

The USDA-RMA states that "For crop insurance purposes, a cover crop is a crop generally recognized by agricultural experts as agronomically sound for the area for erosion control or other purposes related to conservation or soil improvement." PRO-DAIRY specialists Joe Lawrence and Karl Czymmek and Dr. Quirine Ketterings, Professor and Director of Cornell Nutrient Management Spear Program have released a letter stating "Corn on Prevented Planting acres meets these objectives."

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