Dollars and Sense: Animal Care, First and Foremost

September 8, 2015 02:55 AM
Dollars and Sense: Animal Care, First and Foremost

Shelly Dickinson
Loveland, Colo.

Mountain View Farm is a fourth-generation dairy farm, milking 2,500 cows with a beautiful view of the Rocky Mountains.

My dairy farm is no different than so many others when it comes to hiring - finding labor is a challenge, and finding experienced labor is almost impossible. Consequently we have focused a lot of time and effort on training.

All new hires spend at least their first three days with our herdsman so he can see how they are with people, animals, and equipment. They get our farm handbook with our rules, safety protocols and job descriptions. They get a one-on-one class on our animal welfare policy, our policies on animal care, and the FARM book from the National Dairy Farm Program. If our herdsman agrees the new hire is a good fit for us, we move that person to where we need the help.

New employees then work with the managers of the area they are assigned to for about a month to get fully trained on all of our protocols - our milk barn, sick pen barn, calf crew, and every other position we have on the dairy.

All employees are trained on animal welfare even if they do not work directly with the animals.  This is so important to me. I want our employees watching how our animals are treated.  The more eyes trained on our animals, the less likely we will have a problem.

If a new employee stays longer than three months, we know they are pretty happy with their position. We meet with them and see how things are going; we ask them if they are ready for more responsibility. If they are, we usually give them a raise.

DS_Dickinson_pricesTraining on animal care requires constant commitment and refinement. We meet quarterly with our veterinarian to review animal welfare protocols - milking procedure, treatment, cattle movement, down cow handling, and more.  After sharing this information with employees, we ask them to sign a form stating they understand what they have been shown. We also share materials from the “See It, Stop It” campaign and ask employees to confirm they understand the information.

Anyone caught or reported as being too aggressive is immediately terminated. This is critical to the animals’ safety and our employees' safety.

Our farm cannot succeed without well-trained and committed employees. I have been very lucky to still have our herdsman of 36 years.  My managers have stuck by me and my family for more than 10 years each. I am very grateful and proud of them and all our employees. We try to make our dairy farm a great place to work so we can have loyal, longstanding employees.

A solid training program is the best place to start.

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