Be a better manager, motivate your labor force

Farmer milking cows
Farm and Dairy file photo.

The Dairy Excel 15 Measures of Dairy Farm Competitiveness bulletin was published by Ohio State University Extension to provide dairy farmers the ability to evaluate business competitiveness using financial and production information. Measure 14, Motivated Labor Force is discussed in this article.

Operating a highly competitive dairy farm requires the talents of many people. The owners, managers and employees of the dairy operation possess individual strengths and weaknesses. Each member should take time to analyze his or her own skills to determine how he or she can fit into the farm operation.

Five functions

A key to success is being able to identify and capitalize on the individual strengths of employees. Personnel managers should take time to examine the five functions of management:

1. Planning: developing a written mission statement, vision and goals.

2. Organizing: understanding what positions need filled.

3. Staffing: finding the right people to fill positions.

4. Directing: leading employees to accomplish goals.

5. Controlling: evaluating progress and taking corrective action.

Human resources plan

Personnel managers also need to develop a human resource plan that is consistent with the farm’s mission and goals. The plan will serve as a guide as employees are hired, trained, and managed. Motivated employees are often more productive.

Dr. Bernie Erven, Ohio State University Professor Emeritus, cited an employee paradigm that states: “You can buy people’s time: you can buy their physical presence at a given place, you can even buy a measured number of their skilled muscular motions per hour. But you can’t buy the devotion of their hearts, minds, or souls. You must earn these.”

Competitive operations understand that personnel management is a major key to profitability. An employee handbook is an excellent way to communicate job descriptions, expectations and compensation.

The manager should develop strategies to reward and motivate employees. Some of these strategies could include verbal praise, annual salary increases, bonuses and extra vacation days. Farm business and staff meetings keep communication channels open with employees.

Be a better manager

Dairy managers should look for opportunities to improve their management skills. A variety of management information resources and courses are provided by extension. Resources are also available for managers hiring and managing Hispanic labor.

Managers are encouraged to contact their local county extension office to learn how extension can help them manage their employees more effectively. See the list below for examples of how you can become a better employee manager.

Examples of Ways to Improve Personnel Management:

  Assess your personnel needs, supervisory skills, and working conditions.

  Complete a personality assessment (e.g., Myers Briggs Type Indicator®).

  Improve your communication skills.

  If employing Hispanic workers, take a course in conversational Spanish.

  Develop written job descriptions.

  Match workers with job descriptions.

  Hire employees who fit job descriptions.

  Develop and distribute an employee handbook.

  Develop an employee training and orientation program.

  Develop and conduct advanced training programs for current employees.

  Conduct farm business meetings with employees.

  Train and reward employees.

  Schedule work effectively.

  Coach your employees.

  Evaluate employee performance and provide constructive feedback.

  Read books about employee management.

  Attend workshops about employee management.

  Talk to and learn from people who are good employee managers.


Managing labor on a dairy farm, like many other things, can be challenging. I encourage you to review the management functions and focus on ways you can enhance and improve your labor management skills.

If you have labor management questions, please reach out to me at or 330-827-0249.

If you are interested in reviewing the Dairy Excel’s 15 Measures of Dairy Farm Competitiveness, you can access a copy at


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