By Felix Soriano
For the last couple months, I’ve been spending most of my time meeting with dairy farm workers, talking about the current dairy economy and discussing ways to improve profitability and performance. My main goal in these meetings has been to create awareness among employees of the current economic crisis and the impact they have on reducing operating costs and improving efficiency and productivity.
Surprisingly enough, many farm workers, especially Spanish-speaking employees, are not aware of what their employer is going through. In some cases, they are relatively well informed about the global economic crisis but rarely associate this with what’s happening at the dairy farm level.
Here are a few suggestions of things you should be doing to make workers aware:
• Set up a meeting with all your workers to discuss current milk prices. Be specific and give examples of how current milk prices are affecting the dairy’s profitability. You don’t need to show them your exact profit numbers if you’re not comfortable but you can use national milk prices and milk-to-feed cost ratios as examples. It is important that your employees realize the seriousness of the situation and focus on reducing costs and being more efficient.
• Discuss with them how they can help reduce costs – for example, not wasting disinfectant for pre- and post-dip, managing foot bath products better or being more conscious when using medicines. If you provide housing for employees, discuss electric and heat bills, and budget their expenses.
• One week later, meet with each team individually (milkers’ supervisor, transition cow mangers, feeders, etc.) to discuss more specific ways to reduce costs and improve efficiency in their areas. Often your employees will have good ideas, and can come up ways to save more or waste less.
Finally, if you haven’t done it yet, this can be a good time for you and your managers to develop a budget for each department within your dairy. Review the budget and goals for each sector monthly with each of your leaders to better control and monitor operating costs.