When we had an opening for a feeder at the Hoard's Dairyman Farm, we decided to post the position on Craigslist. This is a heavily used internet classified service where people can buy and sell all sorts of items, much like eBay, but where you also can post job openings and where people look for jobs.

The suggestion to use Craigslist came from our consultant, Jim Barmore with GPS Consulting. He knew of someone who had posted a feeding job in northeast Wisconsin using sort of a generic description of what the job involved. In other words, they did not mention that the job involved feeding cows on a dairy farm. The owner received seven responses within a few days and hired someone without any dairy experience who became a good fit for the position.

There is no charge for posting a job on Craigslist except in 18 metropolitan areas. It is a surprisingly simple process that takes just minutes. You do need to specify where the job is. There are 11 cities or areas in Wisconsin to pick from, and we chose to post our opening among the Madison, Wis., listings. There are 33 job categories, and we listed our opening under General Labor.

We thought it would be interesting to post our feeder opening two ways . . . as an opening for a materials handling specialist and also as a dairy operation feeder specifically. Here is the "materials handling" position announcement.

Materials handling specialist
Seeking reliable, detail-oriented person for precision materials handling. Should be mechanically inclined and have experience with skid steers, pay loaders, or forklifts. Work independently in outdoor setting. 50 to 60 hours per week. Good benefits. Location: Jefferson County, Wis. Compensation: Depends on applicant.

We received several responses within three days. After two weeks, we had received eight responses.

Here is the job announcement that specified a feeder.
Dairy operation feeder (South central Wisconsin)Seeking reliable, detail-oriented person to mix and feed a total mixed ration on 450-cow dairy. TMR experience preferred. Familiarity with feeding software would be a plus. Job would require 50 to 60 hours per week. Housing available. Good benefits. Location: South central Wisconsin. Compensation: Depends on applicant.

After two weeks, we had received three responses. Two wanted to know where the dairy was located, and we did not hear back from either of them. By the time a third one emailed us a resume, the job had been filled.

Most of those who responded to the "materials handling" position emailed resumes to us. They included people who were municipal employees, truck drivers, warehouse supervisors, lab technicians, forklift operators, welders, assembly line workers, and people who had worked in construction. Most sounded qualified to be a feeder.

Our next step with those eight involved emailing them a more detailed description of the job, including the starting salary range. Here is how we described it.

Our materials handling position near Fort Atkinson involves feeding a high-producing herd of dairy cows. The feeder uses a skid steer to remove feed from plastic bags or other storage with minimal waste, placing feed in a powered mixer pulled by a tractor and delivering it precisely to several groups of cows. The process involves use of a computerized feed management package that develops batch recipes and monitors feed intakes and feed inventories. The job entails working closely with the farm manager and various feed suppliers to feed the herd accurately while keeping feed and ingredient costs as low as possible.

It is outdoor work primarily that would require 10 hours per day working six days a week.

It would be a salaried position, and housing is available.

If interested, respond by email or phone. Please include a mailing address so we can send a job application form.

Thanks for your interest.

Two of the eight people we sent this description to emailed back their addresses. We sent applications with a stamped, addressed return envelope to them. One completed and returned the application. That person was currently unemployed but had salary expectations that made us wonder how long he would be with us if he took the job.

Meanwhile, we filled the position by hiring someone in our community. He had been raised in a dairy farm nearby and had experience feeding a TMR on another dairy. He is taking the house that is available. We feel it is important to have key employees live near the dairy.

While we did not hire someone through Craigslist, we wouldn't discourage others from giving it a try. When we scanned the website listings for our area, we were surprised at the number of farm-related positions that were posted and even listings from people looking for farm work.

Our little experiment suggests that you might want to run a "generic" ad and then try to attract those who respond to the job of feeder. There are a lot of unemployed people, and many of them have the skills (equipment experience, mechanical ability, computer know-how, and detail orientation) to be a good feeder. Whom you would consider a good candidate depends somewhat on how willing you are to spend time training someone for a job that would be totally new to them. We also would like to think that a job on a dairy farm, even with its long hours and moderate pay, would be more attractive to some people than working in a warehouse or driving a truck.

Let us know about any experience you might have had hiring dairy employees through Craigslist or other means (hoards@hoards.com).