Column: Be a good boss during calving

DairyNZ shares some tips for looking after your team during the busy time of calving

Calving is a busy time for farm teams, and being a good boss is more important than ever 

Calving is a demanding time of year at the best of times, without the added challenges of staffing and feed shortages and milk price uncertainty. Right now, even small, simple steps will make big differences to support your farm team



DairyNZ’s recent farm staff survey found communication from the boss is the number-one priority for employees. So, make sure everyone in your team knows what tasks need to be done, what’s expected of them, and what they’re responsible for.

Regular catch-ups are more important than ever so that everyone knows what the priorities are, and this actually saves time. This could be as simple as catching up over breakfast or having a 10-minute meeting in the smoko room after morning milking.

As our GoDairy Free Farm Ready Training launched in June to get Kiwis into dairy farming careers, many farms will also have new staff onboard over the calving period. Checking in regularly with new team members will help monitor how they’re doing and allow them to ask questions.

Plan your roster for calving


Working realistic hours and enjoying regular days off farm is important to keep teams working at their best through to the end of calving. This season, some farms will be going into calving with reduced team numbers.

If so, it’s even more important to plan your roster. Consider employing someone to help with calving on a fixed-term employment agreement. That extra person can make a big difference in reducing workload stress for everyone and improving outcomes.

Also think about how you could improve rosters and hours and how you allocate tasks. Are some staff getting up early all the time? Is everyone getting enough breaks and time off to recharge? If you have new staff, can you pair them with other team members to build their confidence? 


Everyone may be feeling more stressed or anxious than usual. Tea and coffee, bottled water, and nutritious snacks such as fruit, muesli bars, and protein drinks can help boost energy in a busy time.

Talk with your team about important health and safety issues that can occur over calving. Accidents are more likely when people are tired and busy, so try to reduce risks but also remind everyone that safety is the most important thing.

Make the most of every opportunity to upskill your team; it’s a big factor in keeping people motivated and satisfied in their job. Remember to take time to celebrate a few milestones during the busy period.

A fish and chips night or cake and coffee at morning tea can be a morale-booster. It doesn’t take much but it’ll mean a lot to your staff. For more tips and resources for being a good boss, visit dairynz.co.nz/goodboss.

Take our farm employee survey DairyNZ is currently surveying dairy farm employees.
The short survey will be used to support farmers to make farm work environments even better places to work. Entries go into a draw to win one of four $50 Prezzy cards. You can complete the survey online by 10 August at bit.ly/dairynzsurvey.

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