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On Your Dairy, Would You Want to Work for Yourself?

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
November 12, 2014        
Source:  Emily Wilmes, Extension Educator-Livestock
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton & Morrison Counties


On Your Dairy, Would You Want to Work for Yourself?
By Emily Wilmes, University of Minnesota Extension

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (11/10/14) — A 2005 University of Minnesota Extension survey of Minnesota dairy operators found that 68% of dairy farms employ one or more full time equivalents of hired labor.  That’s a lot of farms with employees that most likely are not family.  The labor market is a competitive one, and it seems less and less potential employees are interested in working on dairy farms.  So, if you are one of those farms with employees, how do you keep them?  Chuck Schwartau with University of Minnesota Extension thinks farm owners should ask themselves a simple question: “Would you want to work for yourself?”

Although compensation is thought of as a common reason for leaving a job, dissatisfaction with the employment situation and their supervisor is often a reason for employees leaving. Schwartau says, “Because you are competing with other businesses in the community, you need to at least be competitive in your compensation packages. However, your reputation as an employer will probably do as much, or perhaps more, to attract and keep employees.”

Making your employees feel valued and important can help maintain employee satisfaction.  This is also a good time to remember the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated.  As an employer, you expect your employees to treat you with respect and to be fair to your guidelines.  Likewise, your employees expect the same from you.  In any employment setting, the employee will build a relationship with their employer-what that relationship looks like will depend on you.  Your employees will typically reflect your attitude, so if you enjoy what you do, work hard, and are passionate, chances are your employees will to. 

Going back to being fair and respectful, make sure that you use job descriptions.  Schwartau explains, “A well-written job description lays the framework for a relationship. It clearly outlines expectations, the rewards for good work and consequences of poor work or improper behaviors. A job description should also describe lines of authority, thereby avoiding later conflicts.”

Providing initial and ongoing training ensures that your employees will be doing what you want them to do, and they will know what you expect them to do.  Making yourself available to answer questions and address concerns will help make your employees more comfortable, and more likely to ask if there is a problem.

So, “would you want to work for yourself?” 

If you have additional questions about employee management on your farm, contact the Stearns County Extension Office at 320-255-6169, Benton County Extension Office at 320-968-5077, or Morrison County Extension Office at 320-632-0161.


Emily Wilmes
Extension Educator, Ag Production Systems - Livestock
(320) 255-6169
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