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Farm Journal Study Finds Dairy Farmers Face Significant Labor Challenges

January 1, 2020

We recently conducted a labor study across all sectors of agriculture. What we found will probably not come as a surprise to any of our readers. Farmers are paying employees more than they’ve ever paid. They are more efficient with their labor than they’ve ever been, and yet they’re frustrated. 

The survey of 2,191 farmers included 160 dairy producers. Of those producers, 87% of them pay more than they did five years ago. One respondent said an increase in mandatory pay and overtime regulations will force him to sell his farm.

While 58% of the employers said they’ve raised wages to attract employees, very few offer benefits. Just more than 20% of the farmers offer health insurance and 44.8% offer paid time off. A handful of the producers milk their cows with robots, but the majority of the farmers said milking positions are the hardest positions to fill and retain.

Many producers said their labor needs will change in the next five years. They said future employees will need to be more technology savvy and be more willing to improve their computer skills.

We asked respondents to share about their best and worst employees. The themes were consistent among the responses. Employers were frustrated by those who are late, don’t show up at all, and/or don’t follow protocols. Their best employees have a sense of ownership: Easier said than done.



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