Annie smiled, and even laughed a bit when she said “You’re talking to her” to the hoof trimmer who stopped by her dairy looking for business while I was visiting this past week. He was looking for the manager and assumed she wasn’t it. I laughed too because it has happened before and doesn’t really surprise me anymore.
I was just visiting with an industry professional about my family recently, and it came up in the conversation that my sister managed one of our family’s dairies. He automatically said, “Oh yes, but with her husband?” I told him no, she is not married, and she is the lead manager of 1,900 milking cows, 400 dry cows, 150 calves, and 30 employees on two separate sites.
Annie has been managing the two dairies, Silverstreak and Bluestreak, since January of 2016. It bothers her that people assume she isn’t in charge, but if you would spend one day with her you would have no problem calling her boss. She works hard alongside her employees and is growing into a great leader.
I asked her to share with me some advice she has for other dairy managers and specifically for women. These were some of her answers:
- Nothing is so urgent that the job cannot be done safely — I always stress this first and foremost.
- Take care of your employees and help others within the ag community — saying you will do something for or with someone, and actually doing it, goes a long way in our industry.
- With my employees it is not good enough to just get them on the bus, they need to be in the right seat as well. Try to help them find their strengths and use them to propel your team.
- Never stop asking questions and be ready to adapt to change. In the two years I have been a full-time manager, BST has gone away, we have changed to a simple ovsynch program, and so on. This won’t stop . . . you either continue to change and improve, or you will need to find a different career.
For all the women dairy farmers out there, she says to stay strong because it isn’t an easy job for anyone. “Dairy farming is mentally and physically draining, but very rewarding. We are a growing force that I am proud to be a part of,” Annie said. “Women make dairy farming look good!”
Lastly, she shared that a strong support system is also key to good management. My parents have given her and our other siblings this great opportunity to be able to dairy farm. “I don’t think any of this would be possible without the strong support team I have from my family and fellow employees. Seeing my team members and siblings work hard and doing their jobs motivates me to work harder every day,” Annie said. “I know my sister Rachel and her husband, Dustin, are doing this in South Dakota. My mom, dad, and my younger brother John are farming in Kansas, and my older brother Jacob is there whenever I need him.”
Christy Achen was the 2018 Hoard's Dairyman summer editorial intern. She grew up on a dairy farm in southwest Kansas. Achen is currently a senior at Utah State University studying agricultural communications and journalism.