The dairy organization

Making people resources a strategic function in your dairy is vital to meeting the challenges faced by dairies today.

Dairy businesses the world over must become more efficient than ever before. As dairies grow, they employ more and more people. Management personnel shifts from managing cows themselves to accomplishing everything through their people. This growth in the workforce can create a mess in your dairy business without a way to organize people and processes. Further complications can occur when we are trying to implement change in the form of new procedures or recommendations from our consultants.

Organization by design

Dairies around the globe have approached sizes that demand we look at the entire organization with some sort of design, or a planned approach to doing things. Let’s look at the big picture of how we might design the dairy organization.

Vision, Strategy, and Values

One of the first things the dairy owner or CEO needs to have is a very clear business vision. A vision can be simply described as a picture in your mind, a dream that is achievable, or what you want your dairy to be in a future point. A vision is a force that pulls you into the future, a compelling reason for being in business. The vision answers the question: where are we heading? A vision is important because it not only pulls you forward but it also pulls your entire organization forward, it gives everyone the big picture of what you are working toward.

Here is an example of a vision statement for a dairy: “We are a business that produces milk of the highest quality, profitably, while offering people a safe and meaningful place to work”.

Strategies are also known as objectives. Objectives are the generally or specifically developed targets that the dairy is after. Strategies answer the question: How do we accomplish the vision? An example of a strategy might be “to improve Return on Investment by 5% by year-end”. Once a target like this is determined, managers and teams can go to work on tactics that will help achieve that strategy or objective. While the vision might be 3-5 years ahead, objectives need to be developed for the 12-16 months ahead, and reviewed 2-3 times per year.

Values are defined as those principles that are so important to you that your actions and your behaviors reflect them day in and day out. The core values answer the question: what does this business and its people stand for or believe in? These are so fundamental to you and your business that they act as the compass for you and your business as you move forward. At a very basic level, your personal values will intermingle with your business values. Some examples of core values for dairies are: family, team work, safety, quality product, quality of life, harmony, leadership. In the big picture, it is important that everyone in the dairy knows and understands these core values, as they provide meaning to what the business is about.

Organize by process or function

Your dairy business can be easily organized by process or function. This way, people that perform similar functions and are part of a like process can be organized around that process. This is a basic principle of organizational design. Take the milking area of your dairy, for example. There are a number of milking process can be broken down into procedures such as milking, equipment sanitation, and others, that people perform. We bring cows through the parlor, and milkers take them through a series of procedures. The milking system performs through the orchestration of equipment and people functions, like a well lubed machine. The outcome of this system functioning properly is maximum production of high quality milk.


Your people are an integral part of all the processes that make the dairy function. People make things happen, period. An important part of explaining to people the organization of the dairy is building an organizational chart. The graphic shows us an example of a basic organizational chart. You can see here that there are processes around which people are organized, feeding, milking, herd health, reproduction. Some others, not shown here, that you might have on your dairy are calves, replacement heifers, equipment and machinery maintenance, nutrient management, crops.

An organizational chart is particularly important when you hire new employees, to help them understand how the dairy is organized and who their go-to person or supervisor is. You need a way to organize the people part of each process or things will be out of control. When we define the processes, then we can form teams of employees around each process or department.

Information management and Goal setting

Once we have determined what each process is centered around, then we can look at what information is needed to make decisions. Dairies today have an incredible amount of information available at their fingertips, yet nothing is done with the information, or it is handled poorly. Management should lead the way in determining what core information pieces are needed to make decisions. For example, pregnancy rates, calf morbidity at birth, etc. Furthermore, organization allows us to set up goals or targets to shoot for each process. For example, the milking process might currently have a SCC of 230,000. The dairy has opportunity to make another $0.15/cwt if SCC drops below 200,000 which can help the manager/supervisor to work, train, implement procedures and communicate with the team on a goal to aim for.

Roles and Responsibilities

People working within each process need to understand their job. Aligning each and every employee with their own roles and responsibilities allows employees to answer the question: what is expected of me in my current role? It also allows supervisors and managers to help people train, get up to speed quickly in a new role, give feedback, motivate and reward. Start by having each employee in each team define for themselves what they think their roles and responsibilities are. This engages them in the work to be performed. Then you can review with them to make adjustments and add final touches, before formalizing roles and responsibilities. This must be done for everyone in the dairy, from a milker, to the President or General Manager of the operation.

Standard Operating Procedures

A Standard Operating Procedure, or SOP, is just that, a sequence or a procedure that is standardized so that everyone performing that operation can do it the same way every time. For example, we design standard operating procedures to connect the whole milking process, train people and organize them into a shift schedule. This makes the system work.

Managing your dairy with a specific organizational design in mind just makes a whole lot of sense, and makes your life easier. The advantages of managing your dairy as an organizational system design are many:

  • Improves organization of the work, ensuring that everything that needs to be done gets done at the right time.
  • Simplifies work by breaking it down into manageable tasks.
  • Allows quicker problem solving, because you know both the components involved and who is responsible for what.
  • Better utilizes resources, because there should be limited overlap in responsibility.
  • It makes life easier and less complicated because everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing when.

While a good management system is dynamic and flexible, it should be simple to operate and avoid confusion. Whether you are a large or small dairy, you need to think of your people as a system in your operation, particularly as your business grows and you employ more people. As you do this, you will be aligning your human resources function to be an enabling mechanism for change. Making people resources a strategic function in your dairy is vital to meeting the challenges faced by dairies today.


Jorge M. Estrada

Jorge M. Estrada
4 articles

Jorge is the founder and CEO of Leadership Coaching International, Inc. an entity focused on Organizational Development, Leadership Development, Executive coaching and training.

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Leadership Coaching International

Leadership Coaching International