June 9 2023 10:30 AM

Unique benefits and flexibility can go a long way in retaining qualified people on a farm’s workforce.

Labor availability has been an issue for years throughout the dairy community. The work is hard and stressful, and working conditions can be hot and cold. How can we keep up with the competition when other jobs are willing to pay twice as much for half the hours? It’s nearly impossible to keep up.

Over the years we have seen people come and go. We have had really good employees stay for a while and then get another job with better pay and hours, and all we can do is watch them leave.

One way we have been able to maintain great employees is by investing in housing and offering free housing for full-time employees along with pay. This has been a staple in maintaining good and reliable people on our family farm team.

We also have been able to find good help by offering positions to people that may need just a few hours from the time that they may drop their kids off at school until it’s time to go pick them up. Posting for help and adding that information has been a big change in finding good employees. A lot of times they may not be able to get a job somewhere else because of the hours they have available.

When we added robotic milking to our farm, the time sensitivity of certain tasks changed somewhat. We no longer move cows to a parlor every 8 hours. Now we can give or take a few hours when it comes to milking the cows because they are in a voluntary milking barn. They go when they want to go, and for the cows that may be waiting to get “fetched,” if they wait an hour or two longer, it’s not that big of a deal because they still have the opportunity to be milked voluntarily if they want to.

With a more lenient work style, we still expect the utmost respect and care for our cattle, and with that, the ability to keep good employees seems to fall into place. I am blessed to have a good team here at Hillcrest Farms!

Caitlin and Mark Rodgers

Mark and Caitlin Rodgers are dairy farmers in Dearing, Georgia. The Rodgers have a 400-cow dairy that averages 32,000 pounds of milk. Follow their family farm on Facebook at Hillcrest Farms Inc.