Large herds face special challenges

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When it comes to managing people, large herds face special challenges, and new industry workshops are providing support.

Dr Pauline Brightling who manages The People in Dairy program for Dairy Australia says specific challenges emerge once a dairy business requires a team of people, many of whom are not family members.

"Having and keeping people who are willing and able to do the jobs done on the farm is a necessary part of having a sound dairy business," Dr Brightling said.

The People in Dairy program has developed a workshop and set of tools to help large dairy businesses address these challenges.

Called the Large Herds Business Retreat, the workshop helps owners and managers of large herds review their business vision and identify any weak links in achieving their desired outcomes.

Each retreat involves the owners and managers from up to six large herds.

Run over three days, the retreat covers a range of ‘people topics' relevant to large herds, including farming systems and the people effort required in farm operations, performance management programs, industrial relations, business culture, teamwork, ethics, work-life balance for all staff, communication and business strategies.

Much of the value for participants comes through discussing their experiences with other farmers, and hearing ways different people have approached the challenges of managing a large dairy herd.

"Large herds do have some common challenges related to people, such as rostering, training and work-life balance for all staff," she said.

The Large Herds Business Retreat is being offered progressively across dairy regions. To date three retreats have been held involving about 30 people from 11 dairy businesses.

"The feedback we've had from participants is that the workshops provide a much needed opportunity to share ideas with people facing similar issues and to discover some tools that are particularly useful for large dairy businesses," Dr Brightling said.

Once a dairy business grows to a team of people, it is helpful to have more formalised, documented procedures and systems in place.

"It also becomes more important for dairy owners and managers to be able to clearly explain the business vision and manage the farm's people resources to progress towards this vision," Dr Brightling