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Management

Manage dairy employees, establish farm protocols, take on milk marketing, and become more confident in your farm financials.

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Editor’s Note: The following is the first of a three-part series which discusses labor issues for the progressive dairy.

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It’s a sad fact that many agricultural businesspeople have gotten too good at what they do. If this statement sounds wrong to you, examine the theory behind it. In many cases, producers have gotten better at producing, allowing their businesses to grow. But with those larger businesses come more responsibilities and, frequently, more need for labor that, at one time, would have been provided by an individual family. Both declining family sizes and larger operations have increased the overall need for hired labor.

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Over the past 65 years, the number of dairy farms in the United States has decreased from approximately 4.5 million to 74,000. During the same period, the number of cows per dairy farm increased from five to 125. The total number of dairy cows in this country decreased from 21.5 to 9.1 million while milk per cow increased from 4,500 to 19,000 pounds per year. The current national milk production could be produced in 8,000 dairies milking 1,000 cows producing 20,000 pounds each, thus requiring a 90-percent further reduction in the number of dairy farms.

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A 2003 Vermont study found approximately 50 percent of farms have at least one nonfamily employee. A Wisconsin study of farm characteristics found that 63 percent of Wisconsin dairy farms utilize only family labor. Regardless of which survey you’d like to use, it means nonfamily labor is a significant and important factor in dairy farming today. The misconception is that only those with employees need to manage their labor resource.

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As much as dairy producers and their advisers may try to eliminate the risks associated with dairy expansions, it cannot be done. The key to a successful dairy expansion is to anticipate, reduce and control those risks. Developing a strategic business plan can help producers and their advisers accomplish this. Careful planning reduces risk. However, any business plan is only as good as the information used to develop it. It is therefore important to have a systematic approach to evaluating an expansion plan to determine how effectively it has addressed the above issues. The areas to evaluate include:

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Relocating or expanding a dairy facility is a process that requires a tremendous amount of time and planning. Owners or managers of dairies will go through a number of steps including:

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