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1309 PD: Keys to successfully managing Hispanic employees on dairy farms

Christian Rippe Published on 25 August 2009

On many occasions the owners of dairy farms find it difficult to work with their Hispanic employees.

Hispanic people like to be very friendly, like to have physical contact and, on many occasions, they can be a little bit loud, especially with their music. Generally, Hispanic employees will not look you in the eye as a sign of respect or shyness and are willing to follow instructions based on good training and an explanation of the procedures and different jobs.They need to understand why the ordering procedures are done a certain way, why the ingredients of the feeding mix must be mixed in the correct proportions and why the care and management of the cows has to be a priority for all the workers. They feel good if you greet them amiably every day with your hand stretched out. Also, when they do a good job a few words of praise and a pat on the back can help increase their love for the farm.

Overall, the workers must feel they are a part of a productive process. By showing your interest in sharing projects with them and listening to their opinions, they will realize they are an important part of the business and not just the people who work hourly and whose opinion does not matter.

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Perhaps one of the first questions a dairy owner asks is how to give out orders or directions to the other members of the group without causing differences between them. I am often asked why employees who previously worked well and in harmony later have conflicts that affect their labor and the dairy farm. The answer is that the majority of the time there is one employee who speaks or understands more English than the rest, and the owner uses this employee to send messages or instructions to the rest of the employees. By doing this, the owner is creating a difference in position between the employees. The person who speaks more English assumes the position of boss or supervisor, and the rest see him in a different manner. It is difficult for them to understand that another employee of the same position and, more importantly, with the same salary is, or thinks he is, the boss.

To avoid this situation, always send an employee of the same position as the rest to pass on the orders or directions while you are present. This employee should act as a translator while you give out instructions to avoid creating differences in positions.

Another commentary I receive on many occasions from dairy owners is that the employees do not seem to worry about being careful with the equipment on the farm, as well as with the cows and the business. When I ask the employees about this they generally respond by saying, "If the boss does not care, why should I?" In other words, they expect to see you involved and working on the dairy farm like they are.

Each dairy owner has their own way of running their business; there are some that are very involved in the daily tasks of the farm and there are others that are not. It is important for the workers to know that no matter how you manage your business, you care about what happens on the farm. Set aside some time to observe the milking process in the parlor, walk the pens during movement of cows and check the beds and drinking troughs to make sure that they are being cleaned properly. Talk with the workers and explain to them that apart from the productive process they do, there is long and tedious office work that someone has to do, paying bills and filling out orders.

Another sign of your interest and leadership is responding to the requirements and replacements of milking parlor and equipment as soon as possible. They expect that when they need a replacement it be provided as soon as possible; if not, they will think it is lack of interest on your part. Also, they will not mention the replacement part again because they will fear you will get angry. In many situations, the parts or orders take some time to arrive or to be built, and this information should be shared with the workers. Most importantly, let them know it was ordered and when it will be available.

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When you use another person to do a milking training, calving procedure, fresh cow management, etc., you and your herdsperson should be present during the talk or training as this also demonstrates your interest in their work on your dairy. If they do not see you with the trainers, they will think it is just another boring talk.

Another frequent question from dairy owners refers to the loud music coming from the milking parlor during the work hours. Working in a milking parlor for eight or 12 hours could be tedious for anyone. What options are there to manage this? Turn off the music? Let them do whatever they want or manage the music?

The biggest problem here is that they may not respect your decision about the volume of the music. In this case, you should manage the music. In one scenario, an owner installed some speakers in the milking parlor (the number of speakers depends on the size of the parlor; sometimes one or two are enough. The idea is to be able to hear the music in the whole parlor at a moderate volume) and connected the speakers to an Internet website that played Mexican and Latin music 24 hours. With this option you can set the volume from the computer in your office, needing a password to change it. PD

Excerpts from ABS Technical Services Global Newsletter, January 2009

Christian Rippe
Technical Services Consultant
ABS Global

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