Managing a dairy farm is no easy task. It’s a lifestyle choice that many make, not for the money but because they love the work. There aren’t many occupations as diverse as dairy farming, with the wide range of skills required to make any operation a success. If you’re interested in getting involved in the dairy industry or if you’re currently working on a farm and thinking about where you’d like to be in a few years, here’s a few things to consider.
It may sound like a no-brainer, but in a job where days can start at 3am and finish over 12 hours later it’s essential to have a goal and a plan on how to get there. The best farmers have clear goals in mind; be that increasing milk production or body condition score, being more efficient with feed or minimising the risk of disease. By knowing what’s involved in achieving those goals, you’ll be able to manage the day-to-day measures you and your staff will need to undertake to meet those future targets.
Dairy farming is a long game; we’re talking years. As you might have noticed from examples of goals worth setting, the results of your efforts are seen over longer periods of time. You can’t increase your cows body condition score or milk production overnight, so you must be proactive in planning for the future. Milk and stock prices rise and fall, so what looks like a great idea today may not be in a couple of months, or even weeks’ time. And because farming is a lifestyle as much as it is a job, the implications of your choices can be far-reaching.
Farming has come a long way since ancient civilisations first domesticated animals and grow crops. While the principles remain the same, the tools we have now don’t necessarily make it easier physically, but they certainly make gauging our performance easier – especially in regard to the goals we set. Modern technology lets us monitor each cow’s performance, and modern chemistry helps keep them, and the crops they eat, healthy and growing well. All of these things make it easier to track towards those goals. And should something go wrong, there is plenty of advice available from knowledgeable rural professionals.
You only get out what you put in, and the same goes for motivating and training your staff to be assets to you and your farm. Employees who enjoy what they do and feel confident and skilled in their responsibilities are more engaged, so they’re less likely to slip up and more likely to achieve positive results. By getting to know your staff you can find out what motivates them and adjust your management of them accordingly to best suit them and their personal goals. Smarter staff will make it easier to run your business efficiently, and they’ll be confident coming to you with any concerns or for advice.
Managing a farm is a big responsibility. It can be physically and mentally taxing but it’s the tangible rewards that make it so enjoyable for many. There aren’t many occupations where your job is to be outside caring for animals, and the land they’re on, and ensuring they’re doing their best. But like most jobs there will be times when stress becomes a factor. With this in mind it’s really important to keep a good team around you, and just as you should motivate them you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable talking to them or asking them for help. With a great team for support, it’s easy to see why so many farmers love what they do.