Being a good boss during calving

1 June 2020

It’s been a stressful start to 2020 but being a good boss during calving is absolutely achievable – just approach it one step at a time, says DairyNZ’s People Team leader Jane Muir.

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


According to DairyNZ’s recent survey,  communication  from the boss is the number-one thing that matters to 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 and will result in everyone knowing what the priorities are, which 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.

Plan your roster for calving

Ensure you and the team are prepared, competent and enthusiastic – at the beginning, in the middle and right through to the end of calving. That means everyone needs to work realistic hours and enjoy regular days off-farm.

This season, there’s a chance you’re 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 of work, and how you allocate tasks. Are some staff having to get  up early all the time? Are people getting enough breaks and time off to recharge?


Team members may be feeling more stressed or anxious than usual. What extra support can you provide during the busy period? Tea and coffee, bottled water, and nutritious energy- boosting snacks like fruit, muesli bars and protein drinks, can go a long way.

Talk with your team about important on-farm health and  safety issues for this time of year. Accidents are more likely when people are tired and busy, so try to reduce risks but also ensure staff know that safety is the most important thing – a strong safety culture will give the best and safest outcomes for your business.

Make the most of every opportunity to upskill your team members – 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 simple fish and chips night, or cake and coffee at morning tea, can be a real 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


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