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Recruiting like a pro: A checklist for dairy farms

Bob Milligan for Progressive Dairyman Published on 11 June 2019

I often refer to the incredible changes in dairy farms from my time growing up on the family farm in the thumb of Michigan to today. Let’s think about what has happened with feeding cows. When I was growing up, we fed bales of hay – pretty poor-quality by today’s standards – and grain, depending on production.

Ration balancing was not something we did. At college, I learned how to balance rations using the Pearson Square method – energy and protein only. Today, ration balancing is very sophisticated, completed frequently, with rations adjusted often daily.



I believe a similar transformation is now occurring with recruiting qualified employees. Historically, recruiting has only been a priority when a position is open. Today, and in the future, successful dairy farm businesses must make recruitment a priority. Dairy farm business owners and leaders will continually seek opportunities to hire great employees, and their recruitment efforts will be well designed and executed. As with ration balancing, recruitment (plus selection) will often be the difference between business success and failure.

It is crucial to recognize recruitment is marketing – marketing your farm business and the position you are seeking to fill to potential applicants.

I have developed a list of recruitment ideas from my reading, observation and work with my clients. I include them as a checklist, so you can select those you wish to pursue. (Email Bob Milligan to receive this list as a Word file.)

Recently, I read an article about finding farm employees that started: “Finding farm labor is a grueling, thankless task …” I wrote a comment to that article that included: “Recruiting is no different than any other task. When done poorly with poor results, it is truly thankless. When done well, with the result being the hiring of excellent employees, it can be very rewarding. The key, like any other task, is to become very proficient at the task.”

Being proficient at recruiting is increasingly important to farm business success.  end mark


Bob Milligan is also professor emeritus, Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University.

Bob Milligan
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Checklist for recruitment