Matt Andreas milks around 1,250 head of cows and farms an additional 3,500 acres on Andreas Dairy Farm in Sugarcreek, Ohio. He currently has 23 employees with a third of those employees working more than 10 years on the farm. Andreas knows the struggles of finding good help on the dairy farm, but has also put a good system in place to keep him employees happy and working hard for him.
“We are fortunate that we are big enough in size that I have a farm manager” who handles the training, said Andreas. Andreas Dairy hires employees on a week trial period, which is explained in the interview and hiring processes. Andreas also offers training and retraining courses in milking. An incentive to getting through the course and passing the test could result in a raise.
“We document everything,” said Andreas. “We let employees know up front in the interview and hiring process that we will be keeping records.”
Andreas says one thing they do not tolerate is tardiness. “If you are a no show and you don’t call then you’re done.”
Penn State Extension advises having an employee handbook that lists compensation, hours, sick leave, benefits and disciplinary policies.
Employees want to know how they are doing. Provide performance reviews to workers to let them know what they are doing well and where they can improve. Provide feedback on even the smallest of jobs as frequently as you can. Allow employees to fill out a self-evaluation of their current job. This may reveal where the employer failed to communicate a job to the employee.
“We do monthly meetings with the farm manager, herdsmen, nutritionist and vet,” said Andreas.
The farm manager then passes the information on to the milkers and other farm hands. Often times feedback is given right in the parlor as things are happening.
4Make it fun
“Happy farmers are productive farmers,” according to a Penn State Extension article. Treat employees to a cookout, ice cream social or bonfire after putting in extra hours or just working hard. Sometimes a company trip to another farm in the offseason can keep workers engaged or give them new ways of doing things around the farm.
Lead by example and don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty, working alongside employees during the tough seasons. You can keep employees motivated and gain some respect.
“Employees look to other employees to keep the positivity,” said Andreas. “If they are not doing their job right it affects the other employees.”
According to PSU Extension, “job titles, profit shares, bonuses, and team meetings can all help employees feel like they are part of the farm team.”
“I always try to implement the ideas of the herdsmen,” said Andreas. “Sometimes things work that I didn’t think would.”
Andreas said they are the ones on the grounds, working with the cows everyday and often times see more than he can.
Andreas does provide health insurance and retirement packages for his employees. “If you don’t offer health insurance it is hard to find people,” he said.
Another benefit Andreas has found to be important is vacation time. “I’m finding that more and more of the younger generations want that personal life,” he said.
“I’ve worked pretty hard to make it a team approach,” said Andreas. “No job is perfect and we have to do the best we can do.”
Andreas said, he has confidence in his team and knows if he wants to take a weekend off, his team will get things done they way they should.
Sources: Penn State Extension, Finding and Keeping Good Employees; Matt Andreas, Andreas Dairy Farm.
(Farm and Dairy is featuring a series of “101” columns throughout the year to help young and beginning farmers master farm living. From finances to management to machinery repair and animal care, farmers do it all.)
More Farming 101 columns:
- 5 general farm labor laws
- 4 tips for employing minors
- 4 tips for PTO safety
- 5 things young farmers should know about finances
- The farm balance sheet
- 5 items for your farm’s cash flow statement
- Personal and business records: Keep them separate
- What to include in your farm business plan
- How to approach a lender: Tips for getting a farm loan
- How to use microloans to get your farm started
- Saving for the future: 6 tips for young farmers
- How to create a farm safety kit
- 5 tips for child safety on the farm
- 4 tips for transporting livestock
- 5 ways to better understand tractor stability
- 6 farm equipment hacks
STAY INFORMED. SIGN UP!
Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!
Thanks for these tips for keeping farm help. It’s nice to know it could be good to try to set expectations early on and document it so they know what to follow. It sounds important to really cover a lot of bases by getting it in writing, especially so that there isn’t any miscommunication about what is expected.
I agree with your statement that it’s important to provide performance reviews to workers so, they’ll have an idea if they’re doing well or not. If I were to put up my farm in the future, I’d also give utmost importance to choosing the right farm equipment. Any farm owners, should not just take care of their people, but they should also invest in great quality tools and equipments.
My uncle is thinking about getting some help so that he can manage his farm better and have the best equipment that will help improve the experience. It could be really useful for them to get some help from a professional to choose the right tools. I liked what you said about how working on a farm should be fun and he should lead from example.