Labor cost is the second-largest expense associated with raising heifers, and the expense with the greatest variability among farms, says Jason Karszes, farm management specialist with the PRO-DAIRY program at Cornell University.

To find out how well your labor is being used, measure labor efficiency or “heifers per labor hour.” This measure tells you how many heifers can be cared for in one labor hour. It includes time to feed, clean, bed, move and manage heifers. To calculate, divide the total weighted hours of labor per day into the average daily number of heifers on the farm. (Weighted hours of labor per day includes the number of hours spent on daily tasks, the number of hours spent on weekly tasks divided by seven days per week, and the number of hours spent on monthly tasks divided by 30.4 days per month.)

“The higher the value, the more efficient that labor is being utilized,” Karszes says. Remember, it’s important not to sacrifice quality to improve labor efficiency.