Dairy USA Wage Survey 2000

Dairy USA Wage Survey 2000

Gregorio Billikopf Encina
University of California

Seventy-six dairies, mostly from the Midwestern and Western states, participated in our first informal USA wage survey. Because dairy farmers had the option to provide details on more than one employee, there were a total of 115 surveys completed. Questions were answered in terms of what was happening in April 2000. The average number of employees was 8 per dairy, with 4.5 milkers per dairy (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Non-family employees working on the dairy

 

Total #

Average per dairy

Max per dairy

# Dairymen out of 76

Milkers/Pushers

339

4.5

25

70

Cow Feeders

53

0.7

4

41

Calf Feeders

30

0.4

4

25

Herdsmen

66

0.9

6

40

Other outside labor

57

0.8

6

28

Management

13

0.2

2

2

Farming (dairy related)

28

0.4

6

14

Office

14

0.2

2

13

All around

21

0.3

6

15

Mechanic

18

0.2

2

17

Hospitalist

6

0.1

2

5

In our sample, 39% of the employees were foreign born (Figure 2), with over half of them employed in the Western states. The average herd size per dairy was 928 cows (Figure 3). Most dairies were milking either 2x (61%) or 3x (36%) per day. The most typical milking parlor design was the pit parlor (75%), in contrast to the flat parlor (17%) and stall barn (8%). The average milking time was 6.1 hours per milking (2 to 10 hours). It typically took 2.1 individuals per shift (1 to 6 persons) to milk. The average number of milking stalls per dairy was 74 (4 to 95 stalls).

Figure 2. Employees born outside the USA

 

# of foreign born

% of foreign born

# of USA born

% of USA born

Northeast

1

2.6%

37

97.4%

Midwest

48

20.0%

192

80.0%

West

196

56.3%

152

43.7%

Totals

245

39.1%

381

60.9%

* Insufficient data to include Southeast

Figure 3. Herd size

 

Total cows

Average per dairy

Minimum

Maximum

Milking cows

40,530

533

50

3,750

Dry cows

6,233

82

0

680

Heifers

23,752

313

0

2,300

Totals

70,515

928

50

6730

Seventeen (22%) of the 76 respondents paid a shift differential for either night or difficult shifts. The average differential pay was $0.89 ($0.25 to $2.00) per hour. The typical schedule of days on and off was 6:1 (n=70) for the first week and 5:2 (n=14) for the second. (Where dairymen had different schedules, we artificially assigned the one with the greater number of days off to the second week.) Two (3%) of the 76 dairies were unionized: one in a California dairy, the other in Minnesota.

Individual surveys

Of the 115 surveys on various job positions, we collected enough responses in four categories to be able to provide additional details on these jobs: milker/pusher, herdsman, cow feeder, and all around farm hand. Before going into each of these areas, we share some combined results for all responses. Ninety male and 18 female employees were represented. The average employee had been performing that job at the dairy for 3.6 years (1 month to 14 years). Men had held their jobs for 3.9 years in contrast to the average woman, 2.5 years.

Here is a list of benefits provided to dairy personnel, beginning with the most frequent: paid vacation time (74%), with an average of 9 (2-21) days per year; health insurance (52%); milk or meat (42%); housing or housing allowance (27%); paid sick leave (21%); holidays (20%), with an average of 4.5 (2-6) days per year; retirement or 401(k) type program (19%); allowed employee owned animals in herd (14%); dental care (10%); and vision (3%). Other benefits listed included overtime pay for holidays in lieu of time off, electricity and utilities, life insurance, time off for personal reasons, free loans, and shared uniform expenses.

Now, let us turn our attention to the four positions for which we received the most number of responses.

Milker/Pusher

This sample was represented by 43 males (80%) and 11 females (20%). Six of the females were from the Midwest, and none from the West. Males had worked an average of 3.6 years (1 month to 13 years) and females for 2.1 years (6 months to 8 years).

On average, milkers worked 8.1 hours per day (women averaged 6.6 hours in contrast to 8.5 for men). Milkers were paid essentially the same in the West and Midwest ($9.40 and $9.38 per hour). Women averaged 36.8 hours per week, contrasted to 45.7 hours for men.

Forty percent (n=22) had the potential to earn an incentive, but only 12 (55%) did so in April. Of those who did, the average incentive check was for $112.83 ($16 to $385) for the month of April. Incentives were mostly offered for improved milk quality (86%) and milk production (9%). Single milkers also were offered incentives based on cows milked, heat detection, overall performance, and colostrum milk duties. Besides incentives, 24% (n=13) of the milkers could collect a bonus, and these averaged $304.55 ($100 to $700) for the year.

Herd Manager

Herd managers consisted of 18 male (86%) and 3 female (14%) employees. Males had been employed for an average of 4 years in contrast to 2 years for females. Average hours worked per day were 10.5 (8-13) per day. Wages averaged $10.36 ($5.36 to $13.34) per hour. Nine (43%) had the potential to receive incentives, and only 33% (n=3) of those got them. The average incentive was $239.75 ($69.25 to $350) for April. Incentives were mostly offered on the basis of milk quality, (78%). One herdsman was able to earn an incentive based on volume, another on overall performance. Of the six eligible for a bonus, 4 earned one: these averaged $775 ($400 to $1,200) per year.

Cow Feeder

All 11 cow feeders in our sample were male. They had worked for 5.9 (1 to 14) years. The average cow feeder worked 8.8 (6 to 11) hours per day. Average pay was $9.20 ($5.75 to $12.50) per hour. All four (36%) cow feeders who could earn an incentive earned one. The incentive averaged $122.33 ($20 to $300) for April. Incentives were offered for milk quality, pounds per cow, and feeder accuracy from feeder computer. Two cow feeders were eligible for bonuses, and these averaged $450 ($400 to $500) for the year.

All Around

One of the 10 all around employees was a woman. The average employee had worked for the dairy for 2.64 years (2 months to 6 years). The average number of hours worked per day was 8.2 (5 to 11.4). Average pay was $9.77 ($6.48 to $12.73) per hour. Of the four (40%) employees offered incentives, 3 of them earned an incentive in April. The average incentive was $40.58 ($15.75 to $61) for April. Incentives could be earned based on milk quality (75%), and cows milked (25%). Five (50%) were eligible to earn a yearly bonus, and four of these earned one. The bonus averaged $748.75 (from $250 to $1,245) per year.

Figure 4. Hourly pay

 

Milker / Pusher

Herdsman

Cow Feeder

All Around

Ave. pay per hour

$9.26

$10.36

$9.20

$9.77

Min. pay per hour

$6

$5.36

$5.75

$6.48

Max. pay per hour

$13.12

$13.34

$12.50

$12.73

Final thoughts

A frequent request from dairy farmers is for wage survey data. This informal survey served as a good first step towards more comprehensive future efforts.

The following collaborators were especially helpful: Elizabeth ResÚndez and Jonathan Merriam (University of California Agricultural Extension); Lee Gross (University of Minnesota Extension Service); Roger Palmer & Jeffrey Bewley (University of Wisconsin-Madison) & John Spitler (former editor of Western DairyBusiness Magazine). We had a large number of other cooperators, from veterinarians to university academics; from dairy farmers to dairy journals. There were some collaborators who helped in an anonymous manner, so that I received surveys from your constituents but was never able to figure out who it was that helped send them out. Many individuals helped with various aspects from survey design to distribution, without whom this survey would not have been possible. Special thanks go out to each dairy farmer who filled out the surveys. This was truly a team effort.


© University of California 2000
Permission to reproduce research paper is granted provided author and University affiliation are credited.


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Gregory Encina Billikopf
University of California Ag Extension
3800 Cornucopia Way # A
Modesto, CA 95358-9492

FAX (209) 525-6840 FAX
Phone: (209) 525-6800
gebillikopf@ucdavis.edu.

15 November 2004