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Dry Off to Calving

Dry off to calving is a time when many people take holidays and get stuck into repairs and maintenance or development jobs. It is also a great time for planning and reviewing people management on farm.

With staff moving on or stepping up for more responsibility in the season to come, use this time to look back on how things have gone. Then get your orientation and training plans sorted before it’s all hands on deck as the first calves hit the ground.

Must do this season

  • Review season to date
  • Set objectives/plans for calving and mating
  • Performance reviews
  • Get ready for new staff
  • Give people time off to recharge

Plan

  • Set up your diary:
    • Lock in time each week/fortnight for staff meetings; these will help ensure everyone knows what is happening on farm and the current priorities. They also provide an opportunity for everyone to share ideas and give feedback.
    • Set dates with each employee for a performance review ahead of time to avoid missing them when things get busy.
    • Note birthdays and other celebrations to acknowledge in the months ahead.
  • Plan out your annual or monthly rosters. Keep staff involved in the process and be open minded to considering options they suggest.
  • Develop training plans for everyone (even you!). Take this time to look back at performance reviews and work with each team member to set up a training plan for the season to come. What will their focus be on? Will training be done on-farm or off-farm?
  • Put together a plan for how you are going to support staff through the busy calving period. What extra support can you provide? What resources will you need to do this? These things could be as simple as making sure everyone has a good quality alarm clock, through to ensuring everyone eats well by providing meals when people are busy.

Do

  • Create or update meaningful procedures. Get staff involved in detailing steps or taking pictures to ensure buy- in and to provide the right level of detail. These things take time to set up but you will be amazed at the amount of time they save when teaching people new skills or procedures on farm.
  • Undertake some personal or professional development. Prepare yourself with new skills and experience by going to courses, and attending conferences or field days. Take your team along where it is suitable.
  • Develop your Health and Safety plan for the calving and mating periods. Don’t forget to think about the ‘softer’ health issues like stress, burn-out and eating well as well as practical things to keep people safe on farm.
  • Keep in contact with staff you have recruited but who have not yet started.
  • Send them information about your farm, newsletters from your community or invite them for a casual drink after work to meet the team. Start building relationships to keep their enthusiasm high.
  • Get documents and orientation organised for new staff:
    • Employee file.
    • Orientation plan.
    • Tenancy agreements sorted (if providing accommodation).
    • Farm policy manual.
    • Order QuickStart packs to step you through the first 90 days of the employment period easing your planning time.
    • Order them a Career Pathways Tool so you can work with them to map out their future.
  • Carry out performance reviews of all staff.
  • Take some time off and ensure your employees do too. Getting off the farm will help everyone to have a fresh outlook when the busy calving period hits.

Review

  • Look back on the season to date. Remember to involve the whole team in this. Getting their input not only gives a wider perspective on things but it helps people to feel empowered and take ownership of the situation.
    • What went well? How can you celebrate your achievements with the team?
    • What were the challenges and why? How can you improve things for the coming season?
  • Review objectives and plans for winter and spring management. Communicate goals, expectations and responsibilities with staff to ensure everyone starts the off the new period well informed and clear on what needs to happen.
  • Got staff leaving? Make sure you do exit interviews to get a good feel for what they liked about the job, what they didn’t and how you could make improvements.