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Can Dairy Farmers Take Time Off? Important tips for Time Management and Holiday Entitlement

By Dairy Farming Hut


Dairy farming may be hard work year-round, but your production is only as good as your workers are- taking time off is essential to the business. Even the most ardent of workers may find themselves in need of a break here or there to recharge their batteries. More often than not, however, dairy cows may get more breaks than the farmers themselves. With a 24/7 production schedule, can dairy farmers take time off?

While at the Federal level, it is not required to have paid vacation leave according to the National Dairy Farm Program, it may be in your farm's best interest to ensure your workers get to leave when requested! It is possible to create an organized time off rotation that allows all of your workers the leave they need without overburdening those dairy farmers on site.

Any manager, especially those on a dairy farm, has to find the perfect balance that allows your workers to be able to balance their lives with their work. However, for dairy farmers, it can be especially tricky as it is not your standard 9 to 5 gig. Read on to find out more about time off for dairy farmers.

Creating a Time-Off Management Solution

Once decided upon, setting up time off does not have to get out of control. In fact, there are many solutions from other business models one can incorporate into their dairy farm to avoid having problems, such as too many people off all at once or request conflict. As this new procedure gets started, there are some basics to set forth that may eliminate problems entirely.

Make Solid Rules

A good farm runs on rules. Think about it: everything from when it's time to start the day to when it's time to maintain the machinery has a rule or expectation.

Why should time off be any different? Having solid procedures and a rule structure will help your workers identify the best ways to request time off without causing conflict.

Some considerations when creating a rule set are:

  • How many people can request a particular day off at once?
  • Are there any times of year that workers absolutely cannot request off
  • Are there legal exceptions for certain positions that require them on-site at certain times? (such as technicians being on call for machinery breakdowns)
  • Are there holidays that are freebies?
  • How many weeks should people request this time off in advance?

Factors that will affect the rules will be, of course, how a typical year runs for the dairy farm as well as how many workers the farm has. For larger dairy farms, allowing multiple people off all at once may not be as big of a complication as for smaller dairy farms.

Next, years have a certain ebb and flow when it comes to farming, so there may be weeks where time off is more lenient.

Knowing these times of the year can make it easier to make decisions regarding time requests. Once all the information is considered, rules can be set forth to the workers so that they can know what to expect when they request time off.

Put Together a Request Form and Calendar

With a form and a calendar available for dairy farmers to view at their discretion, they can check to see if their time requested will be approvable ahead of time. Visual aids in the form of a calendar can help your workers also feel more involved in the process.

Once they check the calendar, they can then enter their request form for consideration to you!

Plan Ahead for Worst-Case Scenarios

Even with all this planning, there will still be situations where many dairy farmer employees may put in requests simultaneously, or other problems may arise. While it may seem like catastrophizing, plotting out the worst-case scenario of a time off request can actually be beneficial.

As a thought experiment, it can help you create or amend the rules to requesting time off, such as holidays that should just be time off. It can also help one plan ahead for solutions. For example, what if everyone requests one time off all at once? How will you say no to some and keep the floor running at the same time!

How to Avoid Time Off Drama When You Have to Say "No"

There are times in any business where "No" has to be said. It's unpleasant and can sometimes cause drama, even if one is running a dairy farm. While the concern over worker displeasure is nothing to sneeze at, the bigger picture is that even if your workers need time, you still need your business to run. How can you avoid drama when it comes to time off requests?

Follow Your OWN Rules

As the boss or owner of the dairy farm, your workers look to you to set an example. This can be overtly conscious or subconscious, but they will learn from your example. Therefore if they see you set down rules for requesting time off, but then you go golfing every week, they may take note and hold it against you.

Once the rules are in place, hold yourself accountable! Make sure any time away conforms to the same regulations as your employees. If you and another manager have the same time off, you might have to say no to yourself. Employees will see this and respect the call, knowing you have their best interests, as well as the dairy farm's interests, at heart.

Minimize the Fallout

As stated before, saying "No" to an employee sometimes is necessary. It can be stressful! What if the employee takes it badly? Is there anything to do to make it easier?

In fact, there are some things to do to help minimize the fallout of a rejected time off a request:

  • Get it done asap. The sooner you share the news, the better.
  • Humanize the situation. Take the time and tell employees you are sorry you have to reject their time off.
  • Find a workaround. See if there is a way to reschedule their time off for another day. This may not be possible if they are attending an event.

Sometimes, having to reject time off will affect morale. The only ways to avoid this are to try and guarantee people time off in other weeks or to make it fun at work.

Set up something to show your gratitude to your dairy farmers for their presence, such as a meal in the break room. Finally, you can always incentivize with a monetary increase during the more busy periods of the year.

Making Time Off Work for Your Dairy Farm

While dairy farming does not always adhere to standard workday practices, that doesn't mean holidays and time off cannot work for you. Despite the fact your dairy farm can entail rigorous work, making a plan and procedure for time off can help increase worker morale and ensure that those that need a break to recharge get it.

Again, it's not required by law, but a happy employee tends to be a more productive employee. Take time to consider how the typical year looks for your farm and past needs from your employees. Build rules that you and your employees can both abide by and lead by example.

Finally, don't be afraid to say no. Sometimes this is unavoidable, but if you plan how to handle such situations, you can minimize fallout to ensure your employees still feel valued and morale does not drop. With a quality time off and holiday management system, your dairy farm can still run smoothly.


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