Proactive Management

A perspective on Alexandria dry land systems, pastures and other management aspects in general.
July 10, 2019
Cow fertility
September 3, 2019

In life one meets people who not only touch your life but leave you with memorable quotes which you remember forever. One such person was the late John Matthews who was our neighbour and mentor when we bought our own farm, Searest.

Asked about judging managers, Johns comment was:

“The difference between a good and average manager is one day”

I have quoted John on a number of occasions and would like to share some examples of my experience over the years.

Key to management is planning and the lack thereof is probably one of the biggest failures that I see in managers. You get two types of managers;

Proactive managers:

Managers that think ahead and plan are proactive.

They anticipate what is going to happen and are constantly thinking and planning forward.   Their next day, week and month are planned.

Proactive managers:

  • Develop management plans which include vaccination programs (and order vaccine timeously)
  • Develop breeding programs and start planning long before AI starts
  • Know when tractors, vehicles and equipment need to be serviced
  • Have a service plan in place and communicated and understood by all operators
  • Are generally tidy, organized people whose vehicles (work and personal) are always as clean. Drivers know that it is their responsibility to keep tractors etc. clean and serviced timeously.
  • Have tidy farm yards and farms are free of weeds, rubbish etc. When you visit farms managed by these managers the activity is minimal and a sense of organization prevails.

These managers create an environment that people like to work in as they have time to think and plan.


Reactive managers:

Mangers that do no planning and are constantly putting out fires are reactive, there is no forward planning.

Reactive managers:

  • Wake up in the morning still not knowing what their plans are for the day. They wait to find out which crisis requires attention
  • Have no management plans and await a rep or vet to suggest vaccinations
  • Do not plan prior to breeding season. The day AI starts is the first time they think AI
  • Have no service plans, tractors are always dirty and un-serviced, and bakkies are a mess (Despite their private vehicles being clean)
  • On their farm, anybody and everybody drives tractors, bakkies etc.
  • Farm yards are always a mess and the farms are dirty
  • When you visit these farms everybody is disorganised. Fencer’s will have 4 people digging one pole hole or dipping cows with more people than cows
  • They always look busy running around but are achieving very little

These are managers that make a working environment very unpleasant and nobody grows or learns on these farms. If you want to get rid of someone these are good farms to send them to as retention will be low.

Then of course you get all those in between the above examples.

What is guaranteed is that your ability to manage and motivate people will have a direct bearing on your ability to grow. It does not matter how good you may be at inseminating cows, rearing calves etc. If you cannot manage people you will never climb the management ladder. In our Just Milk group we are constantly looking for management potential, people that can not only manage farms but can manage people because the higher you climb the management ladder the more people will be reporting to you. People will look to you for leadership. It’s for that reason that you have to ensure that the environment you work in is well organised.

Some tips:


It’s human nature that people thrive on responsibility irrespective of their capacity. Make people feel part of the business by involving them in decision making rather than just constantly instructing people what to do. Examples being that milkers must know why they teat dip, treat DC etc. rather than doing it because they instructed to do so. That way they will do a proper job. Evaluate peoples performance and tell them how they doing. Make people accountable.


No business can operate without discipline. Rules need to be clearly understood and fairly applied. Disciplinary action has to be carried out according to the Labour act at all times.

Our aim at Just Milk is to afford all people an opportunity to grow. Our company continues to grow and constantly requires managers for new dairy operations. It is our policy to select people internally wherever possible. It is for this reason that it remains all of our responsibility to share knowledge with one another.

Written by: Edgar Brotherton (Just Milk Founder)