Small Bites – How Cross Training can Benefit the Efficiency of the Farm

Small Bites – How Cross Training can Benefit the Efficiency of the Farm

Authored by Coach Polly Shyka

Small Bites are short, informational articles with practical ideas about stress reduction, improved communication, and farm and family well-being. They are written by coaches from UMaine Extension’s Farm Coaching team. Farm Coaches are available at no cost to work remotely with farmers and farm teams.

Cross training is not just for fitness buffs. On the farm, cross-training is a good management practice that can increase efficiencies and help with coverage in times of need. Cross-training members of your team so that more than one person holds the know-how for a particular task is just plain smart.

On a friend’s livestock farm, the whole crew, farmers included, switched jobs — for a week!! The milkers took the deliveries, the egg-washers fed pigs, the hay-makers fed the calves. (I wonder what the cows thought!) Having to do a job start to finish is a great way to learn a job, so this grand switcheroo was actually a great cross-training event.

It is good to have multiple people prepared to do each job. Some farms have very detailed and complete Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). These step by step instructions, often with photos, get the critical steps, variables and quality considerations on any crop or task on paper. In thinking about what a grand switcheroo on your farm might look like, what would others need to know? How would you communicate that? Is that information captured elsewhere or could you include it in your existing SOPs? Or do you need to create new SOPs to capture all the crops and tasks?

COVID-19 has made a lot of farmers consider contingency planning. Hedging against illness or injury or absence, cross-training employees is one option you might consider to make your farm more resilient.

Want help to identify areas where cross-training might help your farm? Schedule an appointment with a farm coach today!