As someone who has been recruiting in animal health and nutrition for many years, I have seen firsthand how companies struggle to determine their salary ranges. It’s not as simple as looking up a number in the salary guidebook or leaving it to your HR department to decide on a number. Plus, with inflation entering the picture, multiple factors come into play when determining competitive salary ranges. 

However, with labor and talent shortages across most job sectors today,  only one yield such power—your competitors. Yes, you heard that right. Not you, your boss, or your HR executives determine your salary range. The companies you’re competing against do.

Setting a Competitive Salary

While governments, local and federal, can set minimum salary ranges, only five companies influence salary ranges in the US nationally: Walmart, Amazon, McDonald’s, Starbucks, and perhaps Target. 

Since our industry has nothing to do with these companies, the people who set your salary ranges are, very simply put, your competitors. You need to pay attention to what other companies pay, as it determines the quality of people you will attract. They set your quality ranges. 

For instance, if the upper half of the sales representatives in your market earn a $100,000 base with incentives of $10,000 to $30,000—your compensation package must be on par or better than this. However, if your salary ranges cap at $90,000, you will most likely be hiring in the bottom half of the market, if at all.

If you are not competitive—paying at least what other companies do, you’re simply lowering the quality of people you’ll hire.

Using the Competitor’s Salary to Your Advantage

If you can create a better compensation structure than your competitors, it becomes easier to recruit top industry talent. You will also get these three best results: 

Other companies have a more challenging time recruiting people. 

Losing a key employee can be costly in terms of productivity and the time and money required to find a replacement. Keeping their compensation competitive can make it harder for competitors to lure away your best people.

You hire appreciative employees.

Giving competitive salaries shows that you value your employees’ skills and contributions. For instance, if your team of sales or technical representatives works hard to promote your animal feed products and generate revenue, paying them a competitive salary will create higher employee morale and a greater sense of job satisfaction. The same is true for your production, support, and management.

Your employees tend to be more productive and loyal.

When you pay your employees fairly, they stay loyal to your company and are less likely to seek other job opportunities. They’re also more likely to remain committed to your goals and mission, invested in work, and produce high-quality results.

Internal Equity

When bringing in new talent, ensure your current employees are cared for first. If you have to raise their salaries, do it. Don’t wait for your top performers to be wooed away by competitors offering better pay. Your competition wants to hire your best, not worst. The first to leave is usually the one feeling least appreciated.

Look at what Home Depot did in mid-February 2023.  The news was ‘Home Depot to spend $1 billion to raise salaries and benefits’. CEO Edward Decker did not say how much of a pay raise the average employee could receive, but that starting salaries will be $15. The increase, he said, is an attempt to keep employees with the company. “We hope to improve retention through this,” Decker said. “That’s why we call it an investment.”

Stay ahead of the competition. Take the initiative to review and adjust salaries as necessary. When employees feel valued, they’re more likely to be motivated, productive, and happy on the job. This creates a positive work environment that leads to increased revenue and success for your company in the long run.

Why Salaries Should Keep Up with Inflation

People have comfort zones. They have a lifestyle—whether that is a $40,000 or a $400,000-a-year lifestyle. With inflation taking away the comfort of top performers, adjust their salaries, ensuring they keep up with inflation. 

Otherwise, they’ll start looking for other companies to work with who will make them comfortable again in their lifestyle. 

In today’s market, you would not want your employees jumping ships. Inflation may be rising, but the unemployment rate is dropping. The war for talent is even stronger than ever, so you must keep your salaries competitive to keep your employees comfortable and happy.

Ultimately, the most important thing you can do is be aware of what your competitors are paying. In our highly competitive industry, that is simply the “norm.”

To learn more about salary ranges in animal health, nutrition, animal production, and live production, contact us at (888) 276-6789 or visit For the free results of salary surveys on feed mill management, technical professionals, and animal health nutrition, write to or download them here.

About the Author

Dan Simmons is the founder and President of Continental Search, America’s leading recruiting team in the animal sciences. Dan founded Continental Search in 1996 and focused exclusively on the animal nutrition industry in 2002. He is a Certified Personnel Consultant through the National Association of Personnel Services (NAPS) and a member of the American Feed Industry Association.

Dan has placed over 650 professionals throughout his career. Some of his most significant were a President of a leading animal health and nutrition company and Directors of Dairy Nutrition for multiple regional feed companies.For the latest job opportunities, you may connect with Dan on LinkedIn or email him at