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Helping employees through low milk prices

Becky Schmid for Progressive Dairyman Published on 04 April 2018

The challenging times brought about by depressed milk prices have been felt by all in the dairy industry. While it may affect farm owners most directly, the results have their way of trickling down through the farm. If they haven’t already, your employees are likely to be affected by these lean times as well.

Having employees is a non-negotiable factor in most farms, so how do you go about keeping them happy and helping them understand the changes that may need to be made during this difficult time in dairy? There are a few things you can do to help your employees understand the status of the dairy industry right now, and why you’re having to tighten the belt a little.

At the end of the day, the most important thing you can do is talk to your employees. Make sure they understand the whole picture of low milk prices and the impact it is having on your farm. A little education can go a long way. If your employees understand why it’s so important that they be conservative and efficient, they’re more likely to comply with your requests. Ask your employees to be a bit more self-conscious about working efficiently. Request that your employees be efficient with their time, supplies, equipment, etc. Let them know that every little bit adds up and can make a difference in your bottom line. At the end of the day, your success is their success. Talk to your employees about being conservative whenever they can and extra careful that they don’t break anything. Ask if there are duties that can be consolidated to reduce either the number of employees needed or time needed.

Along those lines, now is a very important time to continue training your employees. Training can help improve efficiency and reduce costly mistakes that could be avoided. Train your employees on the proper operation of equipment so they know how to reduce accidents and keep machinery running smoothly. Revisit your standard operating procedures to ensure tasks are being completed properly and to maximum efficiency. Cross-train your employees in other aspects and duties of the farm to help save the time of your managers or other employees.

If you get to the point where you are not able to give your employees bonuses or raises like you normally are able to, first ensure you explain to your employees why you are unable to do so. Create a plan for what you are able to do and if or when the employees can expect to go back to the normal schedule. You can also show your appreciation in other ways. A simple (and sincere) “thank you” or “good job” really does go a long way. Small acts of appreciation such as gift cards or supplying lunch can help show your employees you still are thinking of them and appreciate them.

As difficult as these times are, be sure to keep your employees in the loop so they can help your bottom line. Don’t be afraid to share with your employees where things stand with your farm. Be honest and open, and ask your employees to help you get through a tough situation.  end mark

Becky Schmid is the operations manager at AgriStaff USA, a labor service agency that provides workforce solutions to the agricultural industry. They have offices in Kiel and Appleton, Wisconsin.

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