A survey was carried out in a random sample of 123 dairy farms from the east of Ireland. The monthly mean production per cow was 315 l of milk and 11.5 kg of fat. The mean log herd somatic cell count was 5.45 (arithmetic mean = 372,573 cells/ml), with almost 50% of the monthly counts over 300,000 cells/ml in a 12-month period. Bivariate and multivariate analysis was performed to assess the relative impact of the personal characteristics of the farmer and the management policies he applied on the amount and quality of the milk produced. In five out of six models the group of variables related to farmers' attitudes, values, and sociodemographic profile explained a similar or greater amount (between 14.44 and 34.35%) of the variation of farm performance than the group of management variables (between 14.33 and 25.99%) as measured by the R2. These results stress the importance of the human factors in explaining variation in farm performance.