VanderMade Dairy LLC is a family-owned and operated dairy milking 1,400 cows in northern Ohio.
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Our farm has always been a family-owned and -operated business. When my parents farmed in Europe, they did not have any employees. It was just the family putting in lots of hours. Then, when we moved to the U.S. and started a 600-cow dairy, we obviously needed people to help us out.
We started hiring people and have always worked alongside them. We would never ask anyone to do a job that we wouldn’t do ourselves. We did, however, find out quickly that working on a dairy farm, something that we have always enjoyed, wasn’t for everyone. We also realized that we ourselves had a lot to learn when it came to working with employees. Through attending conferences, working with consultants and lots of reading, we have come a long way. Now 13 years later, I can honestly say that I am still learning every day when it comes to people management.
Having a team of really great people has made finding new hires much easier. We have been extremely fortunate to have low turnover, but, when we do need someone, we always ask our employees for recommendations before turning to our file of job applications.
We usually hire people to milk/scrape first and then provide the opportunity to climb the ladder. We feel that people brought up from within have a better understanding of the business and future goals.
Over the years, I have learned that good employees are a company’s most valuable assets and therefore we need to continuously invest time, resources and stimulus into our people. We have tried (and are still in the process of) becoming more organized when it comes to HR. I feel job descriptions are very important as they provide clarity to employees of what is expected from them.
While attending The Executive Program for Agricultural Producers (TEPAP) last year, I picked up lots of great ideas from other fellow ag producers. The most interesting one was from someone who, instead of having written standard operating procedures (SOPs), created videos to show employees how to properly operate equipment. We also created an organizational chart, and we bring professionals in for on-farm training at least twice a year.
Having a team of great people is crucial to a business’ success. It is great to have a motivated team to help produce a great nutritious product like dairy and have a little fun while doing it.
VanderMade’s recent prices
Milk $20.70 (3.7 bf, 3.1 prt)
Cull cows (dressed) $1.53/lb.
Springing heifers $1,650/head
Alfalfa hay (milk cow) $250/ton
Ground corn $230/ton