May 28 2012 06:00 AM

Consider writing a standard operating procedure to ensure tasks are completed uniformly on your operation.

The workforce on a modern dairy farm is both multigenerational and multicultural. Without training, each employee will likely perform each task differently; therefore, you need to provide clear instructions. In order to ensure that tasks are done with uniformity, consider writing a standard operating procedure (SOP) for tasks that require consistency.

An SOP is a documentation of the specific steps necessary to complete a task. If taken seriously, an SOP can help your farm improve uniformity and reach measurable goals.

Consider these steps when writing an SOP:
1. Have a goal in mind. You must identify the reason why an SOP is needed. For example, a milking procedure SOP could be written to maintain a low somatic cell count or reduce the occurrence of mastitis. Consider your goals when designing your SOP.
2. Choose a format. Decide on a format that works best for your operation such as a simple list of steps or a graphic organizer. If language is a barrier, consider using pictures to make each step clearer and facilitate communication.
3. Discuss the first draft. Remember, in order to receive results from an SOP, your employees must take ownership in improving the consistency of a procedure. Show your employees the first draft and ask for input on areas that might be confusing or changes they think need to be made. Also, ask for an opinion from someone outside of your farm, such as a field service expert.
4. Try out the procedure. Once you feel you have designed a practical plan for a procedure, observe it in action. If you created a milking SOP, observe each step while your employees are in the parlor. Then you can visually see if adjustments need to be incorporated.
5. Make your final draft available. Once you have created a final draft, provide a copy to each employee who is involved with the task. If possible, hang the SOP in an area where it can serve as a continual reminder of the procedure.
6. Train, maintain and audit. In order to see results from your efforts, you must train your employees to follow the SOP. Make sure your employees understand the importance of consistency with the specific task, and audit the procedure on a regular basis to make sure the steps are being followed and original goals are met.

SOPs are used in many types of businesses and organizations. To find a more in-depth description and a sample SOP, visit the following links:
How to Write SOPs