Tag Archives: employee relations

Diverse Community of Dairies Thrives on Collaboration

When Louie Kazemier of Rickreall Dairy is looking to make an improvement on his farm, he prefers to do so with his eyes wide open. In the world of dairy, that means checking with others in the dairy industry – others who aren’t hesitant about sharing.

“I put all new stalls and stanchions in the barns,” Kazemier said recently, “and before we did that, I visited several dairies with my manager and looked at how they were doing it. And those particular dairymen spent several hours with us answering questions.”

Sharing information, it turns out, is nothing new in an industry that Kazemier describes as “a tight community.” It is a community with a diversity of dairies large and small, organic and conventional, traditional and technologically advanced. Regardless of the size or type, all benefit from collaborative “knowledge transfer” and sharing best practices.

Kazemier said he regularly opens his doors to dairymen, many of whom stop to tour the farm, which is situated on a major Oregon highway.

“We take quite a bit of time to show people around and answer questions,” Kazemier said.

The same can be said of Threemile Canyon Farms, where visits from dairymen are common, according to Dairy Operations Manager Jeff Wendler.

“Probably three to four dairy guys come through in an average month,” Wendler said. “Then we have some other large dairymen in the Midwest, and we’ll go visit their operations to see what they are doing.”

“We are willing to share what we do,” said Threemile General Manager Marty Myers. “It is pretty transparent.”

At Dairylain Farms in Vale, Ore., Warren Chamberlain said he, too, has an open-door policy. Dairylain uses robotics and solar panels in their operation.

“We have a lot of dairymen come out and tour the farm, and we share everything,” Chamberlain said.

The practice is reciprocal, he said.

“I have even gone on road trips and saw a dairy and stopped in there and once they realize I am a dairyman, they pretty much open up and tell me what and how they do things in that area,” Chamberlain said.

At Threemile, Myers said many dairies are interested in the farm’s animal welfare program, and in how the farm handles employee relations.

“We have had folks reach out to us and say, ‘Rather than reinvent the wheel, can you share what you are doing?’” Myers said.

“There are certain things like animal welfare practices that we employ that benefit the entire industry, and that we are happy to share,” said Threemile’s Wendler.

“Dairy is its own family,” Dairylain’s Chamberlain said. “We all have the same issues, and I think we are all pretty willing to help each other figure out what we do that works and how we got there.”

Farming with Innovation and Heart Earns National Award for Rickreall Dairy

rickreall dairy_louies-portrait

A dedication to protecting the environment, maintaining good employee relations and preserving herd health has earned Louie Kazemier of Rickreall Dairy an Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability Award from the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

The award, now in its sixth year, is awarded for a dairy’s use of sustainable practices in areas of cow care, energy conservation, water conservation, nutrient management, and business and employee relations.

Rickreall is the first dairy from Oregon to win the award. It was one of only three such awards in the country this year, and the only one west of the Mississippi River.

Kazemier, who has managed Rickreall Dairy since 1991, summed up his commitment to sustainability as a constant effort “to do the right thing.”

“I believe that if we know a better way to do stuff and don’t do it, I don’t think we are honoring our purpose here in life,” he said.

His work on the dairy, more than defining him, he said is an extension of his philosophy on life.

Among reasons cited by the U.S. Dairy Innovation Center for Kazemier’s award are his philanthropic efforts to help others.

Kazemier travels regularly to Uganda to instruct dairy farmers, build housing and mentor young men. In Oregon, Kazemier built Camp Attitude, a camp for families with special-needs children.

In Rickreall, residents know him for his open-door policy, and the steps he takes to be a good neighbor.

“We are ultra-sensitive to the public,” Kazemier said. “We only irrigate certain fields, certain times of the day, because of wind direction and concerns with odor. And we have an open door policy, where anybody who wants to see the dairy can come in. We bring in a minimum of 2,000 school children a year at no cost to the schools.”

Rickreall-Dairy-signWhen it comes to the environmental improvements, Kazemier worked with Energy Trust of Oregon and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to upgrade his barn lighting and parlor laundry systems, steps that have reduced his energy use by hundreds of thousands of kilowatts per year.

Kazemier’s nutrient management plan involves applying only the amount of nutrients plants take up, so nutrients don’t leave the soil profile. He conducts water-quality tests in a nearby creek on a quarterly basis, and takes soils tests on the farm’s cropland on an annual basis, just to be sure.

Additionally, Kazemier provides neighboring farmer Scott Zeigler excess manure nutrients from Rickreall Dairy in exchange for feed, an arrangement that has proved beneficial to both parties.

Kazemier’s father-in-law, Gus Wybenga, a third-generation dairy farmer who expanded and redesigned Rickreall Dairy when he purchased it in 1990, designed it with water conservation in mind. Kazemier has refined the system to capture and conserve water, and ensure that tap water is recycled at least three times before being used for irrigation.

And Kazemier has arranged with a local food processor to take excess waste water off the processor’s hands, an arrangement that, again, benefits both parties.

When it comes to his 3,500 cows, Kazemier works closely with a nutritionist, a veterinarian and a herd manager to regulate and monitor herd health. And he uses computer software to track daily milk production and maintain health and treatment records.

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Rickreall Dairy meets most of its feed needs through double-cropping ryegrass silage and corn silage and on the dairy’s 1,100 acres of cropland. Kazemier supplements that with high-quality alfalfa hay, along with two byproducts from a local biofuel production plant, plus mineral supplements, beet pulp, cottonseed, hominy and corn grain, and the feed he gets from Zeigler Farms.

Kazemier uses composted manure solids for cow bedding, a practice that, in addition to providing a comfortable and sanitary bedding, also provides another beneficial use for dairy waste, and he has removed exterior walls to improve air circulation in the dairy’s five free-stall barns.

According to John Rosecrans, the dairy’s nutritionist, Rickreall Dairy cows consistently rank as an “A” herd, exhibiting high milk-production-to-feed rates, low cull rates and high pregnancy rates – all key elements in a dairy’s success.
“This is one of those dairies where you can walk through the cow pens and they don’t run from you, they follow you,” Rosecrans said. “That tells you a lot about a farm.”

Then there are the dairy’s twenty-five year-round employees, workers with an average a tenure of twenty years.

“People don’t quit very quickly here,” Kazemier said, “and I take a lot of pride in that, because agriculture is a tough business, and my guys, they know that I’ve got their back if they put one-hundred percent into this job.”

Indeed, cows, people, the community and the environment all seem to benefit from their association with Louie Kazemier and Rickreall Dairy.

 


 


RELATED LINKS

Oregon Dairy Farm Receives National Sustainability Award
NEWS RELEASE | June 29, 2017
Rickreall Dairy Lauded for Farming with Innovation and Heart

Dairy Farms and Businesses are Advancing Sustainable Practices, from Farm to Table
NEWS RELEASE | June 29, 2017
Winners announced for sixth annual U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards, progress report released

Louie Kazemier: Dairy Farmer, Humanitarian, Heart of Gold