Dollars and Sense: Two-Way Dialogue Fosters Buy-In

September 8, 2015 02:07 AM
Dollars and Sense: Two-Way Dialogue Fosters Buy-In

Gerald Fieser
Deland, Fla.

The Fiesers milk 600 cows and graze and hay 500 acres in east-central Florida.


We try to keep things simple. We have minimal facilities and don’t need a lot of employees to keep things running.

We have six milkers, one herdsman, a herd feeder, a calf feeder, and one employee who covers for the feed man as well as general maintenance. We have a couple of young, part-time employees who help with the calves. My brother and I cover the rest. We employ seven Hispanics and 3 non-Hispanics.

We do keep busy with 700 milking cows and about the same number of heifers. We occasionally use specialized contract people for larger projects.

We have not replaced an employee in more than a year, and have six employees who have been with us for more than five years. Keeping our 10 full-time employees motivated on our farm can be a challenge as there is little room for advancement.

We train all employees on what we want to accomplish. But we remain open to any suggestions our employees may have to do the task. Having a two-way dialogue helps all to understand what’s involved in getting the job done right.

After all, they’re the ones who have to get it done, day after day. An employee has to have a certain amount of “buy-in” in what they’re doing if they’re going to be successful working with us.

We have a video recorder with eight different cameras in critical locations that allow us to monitor what’s going on around the farm. This helps prevent cutting corners but also protects employees from being wrongly accused if a problem occurs. It also helps deter any animal abuse.

DS_Fieser_pricesWe continually stress to all employees the need to prevent animal abuse. We understand that cows can be obstinate and create frustration when one doesn’t do what we would like. But we constantly preach gentleness and minimizing stress, and do not tolerate physical abuse.

We used to provide health insurance as a benefit, but the Affordable Care Act created too many disincentives to continue. We gave all employees a raise for what we had contributed, and they are now responsible for their own insurance.

This summer, we allowed employees to occasionally bring their school aged children with them to work. While I was reluctant to approve and must continually emphasize that this is a workplace, this has turned out (so far) to be a positive thing. The kids get to spend a little time with their parent, and the child learns about responsibility and farm life.

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