Five tips to increase labor efficiency on your dairy farm
Improve work-life balance: less working hours, more free time
Labor is a critical factor in the cost price of a dairy farm. Labor is expensive and compared to other agricultural branches, dairy farming is quite labor-intensive. In addition, it is increasingly challenging to obtain staff, let alone qualified personnel. Working harder does not solve the shortage of labor. But what can you do to increase labor efficiency at your company?
As a dairy farmer, you work day and night. The work is never done. But do you want to maintain this profession for a lifetime and make your farm attractive to external staff? Then a healthy workload is crucial. Milking takes by far the most time. However, feeding the cows is also time consuming. Irish research* shows that labour efficiency varies enormously between companies, from an average of 22.5 hours/cow/year to 55.7 hours. The good news: this offers room for improvement!
5 Tips for more labor efficiency:
1. Outsource work
Can you delegate tasks? Insemination is a task that can be outsourced, especially on dairy farms with a seasonal calving pattern, as is often the case in grazing systems. By automating heat detection with, for example, Nedap CowControl and leaving AI to a specialized colleague or external partner, labor efficiency increases and fertility performance on the farm increases.
2. Good communication
Work according to standardized procedures. Make sure these procedures are clear to all employees and communicate clearly with each other about the progress and status at the farm. Use the (personalized) work and attention lists from CowControl, or use whiteboards or planning boards. This way, all employees know what needs to be done that day and no tasks are forgotten.
3. Invest in more efficient systems
The milking process often already covers 25 to 50% of the working hours on a dairy farm. This naturally increases when the farm expands or switches to milking three times a day. It can be a good time to invest in a more efficient milking parlor or perhaps a milking robot. Take labor efficiency, susceptibility to failure and simplicity of operation (even less skilled personnel must be able to work with it) into account. Is the concentrate dosage and cow sorting and routing automated?
4. Make use of modern technology
Things like heat detection and health monitoring can be fully automated. It saves a lot of labor and (if done well) can give a boost to the well-being and performance of the cows on your farm. Technology operates 24/7, doesn’t get tired or sick, and doesn’t take vacation days. It’s basically your most loyal and efficient employee.
5. Create a pleasant working atmosphere
An attractive salary is of course an advantage to attract and retain good staff. But personal responsibility, mutual trust and being able to think along in the company, is often highly appreciated by employees. Just as good communication and flexible, reasonable working hours contribute to a pleasant working climate. It certainly benefits the labor productivity at your company.
*Survey among two business development groups of the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) initiative in the Newtownards area of Ireland.
Analyze, choose and automate!
Do you also want to work more efficiently on your dairy farm? See where you can save time or work and automate repetitive, labor-intensive tasks. This way you have more space for meaningful (management) tasks or you have more free time!