Dealing with Staff Through Negotiation

farm-staff-negotiationsWhether it is between father and son, manager and staff or with salesmen, negotiation takes place on farms every day. Louise Hartley reports from Dairy Co’s negotiation and influencing skills workshop held in Boroughbridge.

Dealing with staff-related issues can be one of the trickiest challenges a farmer/farm manager has to face, and one which can impact heavily on a business’ productivity.

Unlike other industries, many farm managers have little specialised training and, as such, handling confrontational situations or problems can be difficult – particularly when working with family.
Taking time to consider how you approach difficult situations with employees can make a big difference, especially when reprimanding staff.


Routine appraisals are an excellent way of highlighting issues which you or your employee may have, praising good work and setting targets for improvement – all of which will benefit your business.
Firstly, it is important to note an appraisal does not have to be an Apprentice-style interview. It may be a short discussion on the first Monday of every month to assess if targets are being met and the employee is comfortable with their tasks. A more in-depth appraisal could take place every six or 12 months.

Looked after

Livestock, machinery and milking parlours are regularly assessed and looked after on-farm – employees should be treated no differently.

Consultant Alastair Gibb, Cedar Associates, said: “Asking employees to fill out a questionnaire before the appraisal can help identify areas to discuss and set an agenda.

“Understanding their needs will help improve your business – when staff feel understood they are more likely to be accommodating to your demands.”

Things to include in an appraisal might be:

• Description of role – this may need re-assessing as the employee settles in to the business and becomes more able, or when situations change on-farm
• What is going/has gone well
• What can be/could have been done better
• Immediate needs to enhance current performance
• The employee’s career goals
• Their route to achieving these aspirations
• The employee’s ideas

If You’ve had Enough of Milking Cows, Get Out of the Parlour and Employ Someone Better

cows eating feedIf you’ve had enough of milking cows, get out of the parlour and employ someone better, Robert Craig a dairy farmer from Cumbria told farmers at the recent Positive Farmers Conference.

His advice to those looking to expand and grow their dairy farm is to dream big dreams. Since 2001, when he attended a Business and Strategic planning course, said budgeting and cash flow monitoring are key to growing a business.

Grass growth monitoring, he said, is also necessary. “If it moves, measure it. To improve you must know where you are, otherwise how do you measure success?”

One of the best returns on investment, he has had he said, with the fastest pay back was through lifting the performance of poor paddocks.

He also said that investing in infrastructure was key. “This is an essential part in making the most of your most valuable asset – either land or cows.”

He also said bench-marking is important for dairy farmers and he aims to be in the top 5%.

Robert built his farm up from 160 cows and lambing 300 ewes to milking 200 cows, with regular part-time staff, before increasing the herd again, this time to 380 cows.

Since 2011, he took on a 700 acre tenancy as part of a joint venture, with 400 spring calving heifers, where they installed 40/80 herringbone milking parlour.

His advice to growing a dairy enterprise, centred around having balance and direction. “We identified and defined our life goals and then visualized at what was needed to achieve them.

“Never had we linked our expansion plans to our life goals. Align your everyday actions to your overall goal.

“Wealth is not about money. Value your time highly, as once you have choice and control over how you spend it you’re the wealthiest person you know.”

And he’s not finished growing his dairy enterprise. He said he’s constantly looking for opportunities to grow the business.