Finding the ideal work-life balance for dairy farmers
Most dairy farmers I meet are farming because they enjoy the work and the lifestyle. But most would also like a few more hours a week to spend with family or pursue their hobbies. With this target in mind and the busy spring behind them, my discussion groups focused their May meeting on labour efficiency.
We started by getting the host farmer to complete a survey of labour usage on his farm. Currently over 500 farmers have completed this analysis for their farm over the last year. Each host farmer received an individual report and a group report. This allowed him to benchmark himself against the group and against the most labour efficient farms.
Table 1 outlines the main difference between the average and most labour efficient farms.
At our group meeting we spent time looking at the main areas of labour demand on the farm, with the purpose of providing suggestions for improving efficiency on the host farm.
These suggestions had to include the initial and annual cost involved and the reduction in hours worked. Improvements which don't save on time but do save on backache are also important.
I have outlined in the table below some of the crucial areas that were discussed at our meetings.
There is a huge variation in the length of time spent milking on farms.
Ideally you should be milking 7-8 rows of cows. This means that for every 100 cows you should have 12-16 units. Changing milking facilities is a major financial investment and you need a business plan to justify the investment.