Agricultural labor management is more than scheduling employees to milk, plant crops, or repair machinery. It also requires you to be a leader - and not a complacent one. Your enthusiasm and ability to motivate employees is what will help you to reach your farm's goals.

Sucessful leadership involves:

  • Making decisions on the farm related to how things run (who, what, where, when and why).
  • Having strategies in place to make sure things run effectively and efficiently.
  • Engaging in proactive (and not reactive) management

As an agricultural producer, you will always be wearing more than one hat. Your job as the farm's human resource specialist is no exception. Management can be viewed as creating order and predictability (e.g., assigning, scheduling, reporting).

Leadership is the more chaotic side, dealing with change (e.g., sharing, drawing out information, motivating). Labor management decisions are too important to be left to chance. Farm employees deserve your time, attention, and care whether they are full- or part-time, temporary or permanent, or family members.

The labor management information on this page is geared towards agricultural producers, with a focus on dairy farms with a Latino workforce. However, the information is applicable and important for any manager or supervisor who oversees employees on a farm.

Every effort has been made to provide accurate advice. The information is not intended as legal advice - when concerned, seek legal assistance.


Hiring Practices

An effective hiring practice identifies and recruits employees that can - and want - to do the job you need done. The following list outlines basic recommendations for hiring practices.

Minimum information to gather from a potential employee (in person or by telephone):

  • Name
  • Previous work experience
  • Work experience related to job being offered
  • Previous employer information (name and phone number)
  • Length of last employment
  • Why did he/she leave (or are planning to)
  • Machinery/tool use experience relevant to job being offered
  • Work-specific knowledge relevant to job being offered: heats, calving, mastitis, dry cow treatment

Information that you should share with a potential employee:

  • Job description
  • Any policies you have: work hard, respect manager and coworker, be on time, no alcohol in the workplace, etc.
  • Hours
  • Time off
  • Pay (starting and incremental)
  • Other benefits: heat, electricity, cable, farm products
  • Housing situation: have own room, sharing room, living room

What to do before offering a position:

  • Call previous employer to gauge work experience, skill level, initiative, and ability to work with co-workers
  • Revisit job description to make sure potential employee meets all requirements of the job

Hiring Resources

New Employee Training

Dedicate time to introduce a new employee to your farm, co-workers, pay and benefits, work expectations, and job duties. A new employee has an overwhelming amount of information to absorb, including:

  • general information about the workplace
  • specific task or job description

An attitude that the new employee will either "sink or swim" on their own is not the best strategy. Consider what first impression your farm makes on the new employee. Adequate information, details, and training need to be provided for the success of both the new employee and the farm.

If you do not orient and train, a new employee may use unacceptable methods, develop bad habits, make poor choices or decide that farm rumors are accurate facts. Orientation and training set the tone for the employee-employer experience.

You may decide to divide the general orientation over a couple of days. Learning the specific job responsibilities may also be divided over time. The trainer will need to judge how much mentoring, one-on-one instruction, observation, and review is needed.

New Employee Resources

Ongoing Training

Introduce or revisit topics that are critical to the job being done such as farm safety, equipment use, animal behavior, milk quality, and animal health.

Employers and managers should have a training plan to identify and prioritize training topics that provide employees with not only the skills to perform their job well but also the knowledge about why protocols and guidelines are in place and the ability to more fully understand the work that they do. The training plan should first identify which topics are of most importance to enable an employee to do his or her job well and then identify additional topics that allow the employee to increase knowledge and skills that can be applied to an expanded job descrptoin or used for crosstraining. There are an endless list of topics that can enhance a dairy farm employee's knowledge including but not limited to Milking Procedures, Cleaning the Milking System, Farm safety, Mastitis detection, Mastitis treatment, Milk Quality, Skid steer use and safety, Animal behavior, Heat detection, Newborn calf care. Training and educational resources in English and Spanish can be found on the Bilingual Training and Educational Materials page.

Continuous training can be provided by the farm owner, manager, veterinarian, nutritionists, milk quality fieldsman, contract trainer or through private or publically funded trainings off the farm. Trainings can be done through informal conversation, an established meeting, presentations, pictures, demonstrations, videos, and written material, preferably a mixture of a variety of methods. If any one employee has no or a low level of English it is strongly recommended that continuous training be done in collaboration with an interpreter to make sure the employee has full understanding of the information being discussed.

Routine meetings to allow for full and easy communication between the producer and/or manager and employees. If you have Spanish speaking employee(s) a monthly meeting needs to be interpreted. It is strongly recommended that all farms with employees that speak English as a second language hold interpreted meetings at least monthly.

Training Resources

A Communication Plan

A communication plan: identifying an interpreter contact if you have employees with a low level of English, an emergency plan, SOP's, safety guidelines, and housing expectations

Interpreter Contact

  • Choose one individual who can get to know you, your employees, your farm, systems used, gereal job responsibilities of Spanish speaking employees.
  • Set up a contract/agreement with interpreter to ensure you and your employees can have access to interpretation as needed for day to day changes or issues, emergency situations, health care concerns, and issues relating to the home

Signage/Bilingual Materials

  • Signs
  • Make sure all chemicals and cleaning liquids used by employees are marked clearly and use is identified
  • Any area marked for safety concerns should be marked in English and Spanish (Do Not Enter, Danger, etc)

Standard Operating Procedures

  • Use bilingual Standard Operating Procedures to detail exactly how you want each farm system completed (Milking System Cleaning Protocols, Milking Routine Protocols, Calf feeding Protocols, Calving Protocols)

Communication Tools

  • Make sure a dictionary is on hand in office. A bilingual farm dictionary would be best
  • Design farm specific bilingual day – to – day communication sheets in accordance with job and reporting responsibilities of the Spanish speaking employee(s). Mastitis detection and treatment, Dry cow treatment, Heat detection, and calving reports are examples of reporting that can be improved by communication tools.

Designated Meeting & Training

  • In order to encourage and ensure open and effective communication employers should meet with their Spanish speaking employees at a minimum for monthly interpreted meetings. (Weekly farm meetings are often suggested regardless of whether a language barrier exists)
  • Employers or managers should have a training plan to identify and prioritize training topics that provide employees with not only the skills to perform their job well but also the knowledge about why protocols and guidelines are in place and the ability to more fully understand the work that they do. (Milking Procedures, Cleaning the Milking System, Farm safety, Mastitis detection, Mastitis treatment, Milk Quality, Skid steer use and safety, animal behavior, heat detection, Newborn calf care…)

Communication Resources


Having a compensation system that motivates employees to do their best work, lend an extra hand when necessary and stay at the job long term.  How you compensate your employees can help to determine how successful your employees are, how motivated they are and if they are willing to stay in your employment.

Compensation is more than just the bottom line on a pay stub. It includes tangibles such as vacation days, benefits, and non-cash items such as housing or farm products.

Compensation is also how flexible you are in creating work schedules, incentive pay, bonuses, and assisting your employees to solve problems, such as daycare, which affect their work.

Part of your farm reputation as a good place to work rests solidly on your approach to compensation.

Compensation Resources