Nick Vande Weerd
The Vande Weerd family is majority owner and manager of Pleasant Dutch Dairy, which milks 1,400 Holsteins.
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Employees are one of the most important factors in operating a business. On our dairy, they make all the difference in things running smoothly versus not. We have found that proper training and setting expectations pay dividends in the long run.
In addition, keeping employee morale high ensures things get done correctly and efficiently. Also, retaining our best employees has always been a priority at our dairy, and we actively try to show our appreciation for their hard work and dedication.
Over the past couple of years, we have adjusted our training program. At first, we didn’t have a very formal training program. We developed protocols and placed them into binders, which we would review with our employee at the beginning of their employment and every couple of months. We found that employee protocol drift was common in the parlor.
In response to fixing protocol drift in the parlor, we worked closely with DairyNet Inc., a local dairy consulting company, to develop a more formal employee training program. We made training videos on-site and developed PowerPoint presentations of our procedures.
In addition, we translated all of our protocols to Spanish and posted the parlor protocols in the parlor. All new parlor employees watch the video and are trained with the PowerPoint training. We also monitor the parlor on a daily basis to ensure all equipment has been functioning properly and to correct any protocol drift.
We feel keeping employee morale high pays dividends. Employees with high morale pay closer attention and complete a job to our farm’s expectations. Also, happy employees are less likely to leave. One way we keep morale high has been by having routine meetings with open dialogue. This helps by letting the employees have a voice. We don’t always use their ideas, but we always take them into consideration.
Keeping morale high has been one key to retaining employees. Retaining employees reduces costs by having fewer mistakes and less re-training. We also feel that our employees need to feel appreciated. Once a month, we have an employee appreciation meal. In addition, we often let employees who are doing a great job know that we appreciate their hard work and dedication.
Employees are a key to running a successful business. We have found that, as an employer, we are responsible for ensuring they get the training they need and understand our expectations of them. Furthermore, a positive work environment that fosters great morale helps retain your best employees.
Vande Weerd’s recent prices
Milk $19.40 (3.8 bf, 3.05 prt)
Cull cows $70-$85/cwt.
Springing heifers $1,270-$1,550/head
Alfalfa hay (milk cow) $200-$250/ton
Ground corn $6/bu.
Soybean meal $400/ton