OMAHA, Neb. — With each generation, Willow Behrer Farms LLC has grown and evolved, but one thing has not changed over the years – their commitment to quality.
Willow Behrer Farms was originally settled in 1892 by Charles E. Berher. Today, the farm is owned and operated by Michael A. Behrer and his son Allen M. Behrer, the fourth and fifth generation of their family to run the dairy in Spruce Creek, Pennsylvania. The dairy milks more than 1,000 cows with replacement females.
Willow Behrer Farms’ commitment to continuous improvement led to the implementation of the National Dairy FARM program, a BQA-equivalent certification program. The FARM program has ignited a passion for employee growth and dedication to learning. The dairy team uses technology to engage with their employees, who are all primarily Hispanic persons. Programs like WhatsApp and YouTube deliver pre-recorded video training to more than 20 farm employees. The videos offer training on critical control points for cattle care. With more than 80 videos covering topics like milking procedures, calf delivery, calf care, tube feeding a newborn calf, stockmanship and more, employees can access, review and revisit as needed to refresh on protocols.
Behrer said the group used to do a lot of meetings with a translator, which quickly became cumbersome. When Pete Posnett, herd manager, suggested the needed technology to execute educational videos three years ago, Behrer had initial reservations about the financial impact it would have.
“We were not having good times on the dairy financially, but as I sat back and thought about it, training people is very important,” Behrer says. “Without good, quality people on the farm – we’re not going to make it.”
For Posnett, it’s all about inspiring the employees and getting them excited to do well on the farm. “Every video I make has three aspects to it: the inspirational side, the educational side and the directional and how to do it side, and the most important part of that is the inspiration,” he says. “If you inspire someone, they are going to knock the socks off any goal you set.”
The team at Willow Behrer is persistent in its pursuit of top-quality animal care. To ensure the farm was executing BQA and FARM program techniques properly, Willow Behrer Farms hosted Amanda Waite, FARM Program Specialist with Land O’Lakes, to complete an evaluation.
“Pete showed me their protocols, and we talked through how things were going, and then he showed me the video library on YouTube,” Waite says. “He wanted to know how they could continue to improve. To be honest, I didn’t know what to say. They are so far ahead of the curve on animal care and employee training. It blew me away.”
In addition to the video tools, Willow Behrer has executed a bonus system for employees. However, unlike other dairies, this system is not simply based on pounds of milk produced but has factors that account for cattle health and well-being. A few of the bonus criteria include decreased hospital pen numbers by month and a decrease in the number of new mastitis cases by month. The team at Willow
Behrer feels strongly that the increased training and the bonus system have helped the employees feel more accountable for a healthy herd.
On the farm, both Behrer and Posnett chose to be innovative rather than complacent. The use of video tools, apps, proper employee onboarding and a bonus system has helped transform Willow Behrer into a superior team focused on the basics of BQA. “With the BQA Program, doing things right always ends up working in favor of the dairy,” Behrer says.
The BQA – FARM Dairy Award is funded in part by the Beef Checkoff with additional support from Cargill. For more information on Willow Behrer Farms and other 2021 BQA Award winners, visit www.bqa.org/about/bqa-awards.
About Beef Quality Assurance
Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) is a nationally coordinated, state implemented program funded by the Beef Checkoff that provides U.S. beef producers guidelines and certification drawn from common sense husbandry techniques and accepted scientific knowledge on how to raise cattle under optimum management and environmental conditions. BQA reflects a positive public image and instills consumer confidence in the beef industry. When producers implement the best management practices of a BQA program, they assure their cattle are the best they can be. For more information on BQA, visit www.bqa.org.
–Beef Quality Assurance