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What really matters to dairy farm employees?

Becky Rodriguez for Progressive Dairy Published on 19 October 2020

Our team at AgriStaff USA recently conducted a survey of over 150 Latino dairy employees throughout Wisconsin. We routinely conduct formal surveys to gather information about what employees find important in relation to their job. The surveys aid us in recognizing trends in changes of preferences, as well as guiding our clients in making the best decisions for their farms to attract and retain a quality workforce.

Following are the nine questions we asked and a summary of the responses we received:

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1. Do you feel the dairy industry has your (a Latino dairy worker’s) best interests in mind?

The negative comments surrounding this question related to injuries on the farm – employees felt there were no benefits or help available when someone was injured, and they were too easily replaced. There were additional comments regarding employers not being flexible when employees need time off to deal with family issues. On the other hand, positive comments revolved around the dairy industry being a stable place to work and offering a good amount of work hours.

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2. Has the struggle of the dairy industry (low milk prices, farm closures, etc.) and/or COVID-19 affected your job directly in the past year?

It is clear that the struggle of the dairy industry, compounded by COVID-19, has had a significant impact on employees of dairy farms. Most respondents commented that they were affected by either a cut in hours or cut in pay.

3. What is your biggest consideration when applying for a job?

  • Pay: 38.2%
  • Housing Available: 36.4%
  • Employee Benefits: 18.2%
  • Other: 5.5%
  • Size of the farm: 1.8%

This response was as we expected. We find the pay is what candidates look for the most, followed closely by whether employee housing is available.

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4. What benefit do you most wish your employer provided?

  • Health Insurance: 45.8%
  • Paid Vacation: 31.8%
  • Retirement Plan: 14%
  • Other: 5.5%
  • None/Not important to me: 2.8%

Most of the comments in the “other” category were related to housing, a good work environment, or multiple benefits.

5. On a scale of 1-5, 5 being extremely important, how important is it that your employer provides housing?

  • Average rating: 4

This was not surprising to us. Over that past few years, we have seen an exponential increase in the demand for jobs with housing. Farms that offer some type of employee housing tend to have an advantage in filling positions quickly, over those who do not.

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6. Do you think it is important to have regular trainings on the farm?

We are so glad to see employees value training on the farm. Many respondents wrote that training helps prevent accidents, is necessary and helps them do a better job in their positions.

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7. Have the trainings you’ve attended with your employer been presented in a way you understand?

While it is very important to conduct regular trainings, it is as equally important to ensure your training is being presented in a way that is accessible and easily understood by your employees. According to our survey, the majority of farms are doing a great job presenting their training.

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8. How long do you see yourself working in the dairy industry?

  • Less than 1 year: 2.9%
  • 1-5 years: 23.8% 
  • 5-10 years: 31.4%
  • 10 or more years: 41.9%

We were very happy to see that the majority of respondents are looking at the dairy industry as a long-term career choice.

9. Are you thinking of working in a different industry?

  • No (planning to stay in the dairy industry): 63.5%
  • Manufacturing: 14.4%
  • Construction 7.7%
  • Other: 7.7%
  • Food production/meat processing/field work: 4.7%
  • Other agricultural work: 1.9%

This is also a great sign that most respondents have the intent of staying within the dairy industry.

We found the survey to be very helpful in gaining insight as to preferences of our local employee base. We found most trends, such as housing, were unchanged. We were happily surprised to see that many employees are planning to stay in the dairy industry for a longer time period. Although we conducted this survey on a larger scale, doing a yearly survey on your individual farm may help provide feedback on your employee’s preferences. If you are interested in receiving the full survey report, please send an email to .  end mark

Becky Rodriguez is an operations manager at AgriStaff USA. Email Becky Rodriguez.

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