A dairy farmer’s wife asked American Agriculturist’s Profit Planner panel: "My husband I milk about 70 cows, and I work in town. Our full-time employee was let go to reduce expenses. I could quit my job to work on the farm. It’s either that or hire part-time help. What’s best option?"
See Trade off her job to work on-farm? for responses from three of the panel’s experts. Here’s the fourth response from Glenn Rogers, ag consultant from Essex Junction, Vt.:
As usual, ‘devil’ is in the details
One of the biggest household costs is medical insurance, especially for dairy farmers who may be middle-aged or older. If you’re working in town and have even part of your medical insurance paid for by the employer, it’s hard to replace that benefit.
That’s because there usually are other benefits — vacation, sick time, paid holidays. Don't forget that half of your social security is also paid for by your employer. These costs, and maybe even a matching 401(k), are often hidden and very hard to match on dairy operations.
It may be tough to regain that employment "downtown" at the same rate as you have now. I hate to see someone say "No" to a good job downtown, unless it’s justified by doing a budget and taking a hard look at the emotional, physical and financial aspects of working on the farm vs. a town job.
Maybe a short term leave of absence, in combination with vacation, could be an option. But I hesitate to advise leaving a job.
Part-time help has problems, too
Finding qualified help, training and working them into the operation, adequately paying/rewarding, and then keeping them are all relevant issues. Right now, it’s a real tough time in the dairy business with costs generally exceeding income. The immediate future looks like things aren’t going to change much. So, it’s difficult to pay anyone during these low-price periods.
Having a spouse working on the farm helps in the short run. However, you need a team for the long term. Commodity prices tend to rebound. Just how long and how big that rebound will be is unknown.
Got a question? Our experts await!
Our Profit Planner panel would like to hear it. The panel consists of Michael Evanish, farm business consultant and business services manager of Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s Members’ Service Corp.; Dale Johnson, Extension farm management specialist at University of Maryland; George Mueller, dairy farmer from Clifton Springs, N.Y.; and Glenn Rogers, University of Vermont Extension professor emeritus and ag consultant from Essex Junction, Vt.
Send your questions to "Profit Planners," American Agriculturist, 5227 Baltimore Pike, Littlestown, PA 17340. Or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. All are submitted to our panel without identification.