April 7, 2010 06:18 AM

People who have an interest in dairy farming can earn more than a wage when working at Focal Dairy.

Employees who show potential as a manager can earn a stake in the company through "sharemilking,” a concept perfected in New Zealand.

Sharemilking allows people to work on someone's dairy farm, paying for some expenses, while also receiving a share of the milk check. The method allows youth without a dairy background or equity to enter the industry and gain experience without gaining debt.

"It creates a very motivated employee and it aligns the interest of the owner and the sharemilker very well,” Horner says. "The New Zealanders brought that concept to Missouri and it is in the process of being validated in our system.”

Focal's business model encourages sharemilking. Sharemilkers usually work for a few years as hourly employees learning about the industry and dairy management. Then they can move to a "low-order” sharemilker, where the employees use the dairy owner's land, facilities, equipment and milking herd but share the profit and some of the operating costs with the owner.

After gaining experience as low-order sharemilker, workers can earn up to 50 percent of the milk check and will own the cattle and equipment, but still use the owner's land and facilities.

Horner says sharemilking and pasture-grazed dairies hold tremendous promise for the dairy industry because they solve two major issues. Retiring dairy farmers do not want to reinvest in facilities, and young people do not have enough capital to enter the industry.

"I like to say it is going to work perfectly in Missouri,” Horner says. "But, quite honestly, we have to prove it for a few years to see how well it is going to work.”

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