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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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Hispanics represent a significant portion of the agricultural workforce in the U.S. Between 1996 and 2000, the number of Hispanic farm workers has nearly doubled from 183,000 to 364,000. These farm workers may or may not have prior livestock experience, but constituted 47.4 percent of farm labor in 2002.

Because only a very small number of farm managers are Hispanic, and Hispanic farm workers are for the most part foreign-born and Spanish-speaking, a communication gap is likely to arise between English-speaking management and Spanish-speaking labor on livestock operations.

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Ask a few dozen agricultural managers what their largest human resource management issue is and chances are a good many of them are going to say, “Turnover!” However, it’s important to consider whether or not turnover is an issue in and of itself.

Doctors frequently run tests and perform lengthy examinations when patients present very common complaints, simply because symptoms and diseases are two very different things. That’s exactly the case with turnover. Turnover itself is not a diagnosis. To truly understand why a business is having difficulty retaining a qualified workforce one has to go deeper – beyond the symptom to the disease itself.

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High-performance dairies have great herdsmen that are not usually hired into that position. Rather, great herdsmen are grown by owners or managers who recognize core leadership skills within individuals. Great herdsmen know cows and lead workers. Their duties might include breeding, treating cows, milking, calving or moving animals; they must do these technical things well. But great herdsmen also lead and influence their fellow workers.

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If there is one thing that catches my daughters’ attention when we head to the fair, it is the rides. The constant commotion of screaming riders, flashing lights and the thrill of watching machines thrash back and forth, round and round, and up and down has them begging to go for a ride. One of their favorite rides is the mini roller coaster. They spend their time looking for Mom and Dad as they smile and wave from the vantage point of their steel cocoon.

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The milk-to-feed ratio continues to decline as producers see less money remain after feed has been purchased. In August 2008, the ratio fell to 1.89 compared to 3.19 only one year earlier. With the lowering milk price and sustained high feed costs, margins are expected to remain tight for the balance of the year.

Tight margins bring out the best and worst among dairy producers. Historically, dairy producers are adept at making adjustments and sacrifices to make ends meet, but sometimes those decisions save a dime only to cost a quarter. When tough decisions need to be made, it’s often best to work with an assessment team from outside the dairy.

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In recent years, unions have increasingly targeted dairies in their organizing efforts. As organized labor searches for ways to avert a decades-long decline in private industry union representation, unions have targeted industries that employ Hispanic workers, and have focused on industries that cannot be “off-shored,” including the hospitality, construction and janitorial industries. The dairy industry fits this profile, and more and more milk producers find themselves confronted by union-organizing campaigns.

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