Time, the most limited resource on dairies


Of the things we have come to deeply understand as dairy owners, time is our most limited resource. Time management is absolutely crucial to the success of our dairy. Employee time costs money, cow time makes money, Mother Nature’s time can be variable and unexpected, and our time as dairy managers is equally critical.

Often, our to-do list exceeds the hours in a day. We become so busy that the good intentions we have set out for ourselves are thrown off track by incoming issues and fires that need to be put out. Interruptions seem non-stop, and it can feel like there is no time for anything extra to get done other than the next pressing issue.

Therefore, it is essential to pause and ask ourselves if we are busy or if we are being productive. Are we being reactive or proactive?

“If you do not run your day, your day will run you,” said Mary Kelly, CEO of Productive Leaders.

Just because we have been busy all day doesn’t mean that we have been effectively advancing our dairy toward our desired goals. As we are coming into the fall season, when we have even more added to our list, we thought we would suggest a few tips for intentionally focusing on increasing the effectiveness of time on your farm.

Plan out the week. At the beginning of the week, set goals and tasks to be completed for the week. Each morning, plan out the day before starting. Create a to-do list. Take five to ten minutes in the morning, during a cup of coffee, while the first load of feed is mixing, or perhaps while the first few cows are milking, to actively write or create on your phone, a to-do list. What are your primary goals for the week? Decide what is important and sh

ould to be done, versus what is urgent and needs to be done.
Set dates and times for important deadlines and work ahead of them. We often set deadlines ahead of schedule so that when issues arise, as they often do, we are able to address those fires and still efficiently move the dairy toward its goals. Put these deadlines on a calendar in the office, at home or on a shared calendar on your phone so that everyone involved is informed.

Delegate and create a schedule. Are you doing tasks that could be completed by employees instead of having you run ragged each day because there is so much to do? Delegate. As dairy owners, it can be one of the hardest things to do. Often, we feel that we need to do the task because no one else can do it as well as us. If you feel this way, delegate the task and take quality time to thoroughly explain all aspects of the task to an employee. Especially explain the little nuances you add to the task that make you feel that you are the only one who is capable. Get others involved, and you can accomplish more each day.

Clearly define employee roles, what is expected of each person on the farm and who is responsible for completing the various tasks on the farm. Communication between these roles is essential. One of the common attributes of a dairy business is the number of irregularities that force us to quickly pivot and change what needs to be done. Weather, equipment breakdowns, employee issues and animal health are just a few of the issues that can arise on a daily basis and alter our plans for the day. 

Communicate with everyone on the farm to understand what needs to be done and by whom so that issues are addressed more efficiently and other members of the team are free to continue working toward the day’s goals.

Effective time management is not only essential to the success of your dairy but, especially this oncoming harvest season, to mental health and decreased stress. As we enter into the busy harvest season, we aim to remind ourselves that when we intentionally spend the time on our dairy, we are able to not only move our dairy in the desired direction but also enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Megan Schrupp and Ellen Stenger are sisters and co-owners of both NexGen Dairy and NexGen Market in Eden Valley, Minnesota. They can be reached at [email protected]


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