University of Wisconsin-Extension conducts Wisconsin farm human resource survey

Contact: Ken Barnett, 715-355-4561,

Wisconsin’s dairy industry continues to undergo notable structural changes; dairy farms have declined in number over the last few decades, increased in size, and increased in productivity.

More cows on farms means more time must be dedicated by the farmer to management and less time available to milk, feed and haul manure. Dairy farmers must now manage land, capital and cows; and success depends on how well the farmer can do this through others.

In an effort to better understand current human resource practices and identify farmer’s needs as they relate to the topic, the University of Wisconsin – Extension Farm and Risk Management Team is conducting a survey of Wisconsin farms. The results of this study will be used to guide future UW-Extension programming in the areas of farm human resource management, and assist Wisconsin farmers with their human resources management needs.

The majority of Wisconsin farms have at least some part-time help. As farm size has increased, more farm businesses have been hiring non-family employees, and many farms have a number of full-time employees. Statistics show thatless than 5 percent of farms, with 49 or fewer cows, hire non-family workers. However, almost half of farms with 100-199 cows hire workers, and 90 percent of farms with 200-499 cows hire at least one non-family employee. All farms over 500 cows report hired labor (UW Program on Agricultural Technologies).

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that the average cost of hiring just one employee is nearly $40,000. Turnover upsets routine, and affects the health and safety of the herd. While selecting, orientating and training a new employee, the person often doing the job is you, taking away from your other work and responsibilities.

To participate in the University of Wisconsin – Extension Farm Human Resources Management survey, contact your local UW-Extension county office, or visit the survey website at:

The survey should be filled out by the farm owner, manager, or human resource manager and will take about 10 minutes to complete. All survey information will be kept strictly confidential. Information will be reported in the aggregate only for the purpose of this study. Please complete the survey by March 1, 2013.

For questions and more information about this survey, please contact Ken Barnett, UW Extension Educator, at (715) 355-4561.


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