Patrick Maier of Maier Farms LLC is part of a three-generation family farm in Waunakee, Wis. Pat and his wife Courtney, farm with his parents, Scott and Daun. Pat's aunt and uncle Lynn and Keith Maier and grandparents Linus and Ruthann Maier round out the workforce. Patrick and Courtney's son Leo is 5 months old and their daughter Anika is 3 years old - and she's already in love with the dairy.
"We're a family-run dairy supported by a great team," Pat said. "We're lucky to have over a dozen hard-working team members ranging from 12 to 80 years old. It's important to me to paint a vision we can all work toward, regardless of age or experience."
Collectively, they share the same goals. But maintaining consistent protocols can be a challenge, especially as the farm adds to the team.
"At first, our differing experiences and vantage points created a tough atmosphere," said Pat. "I might walk through a fresh pen and look at an animal differently than my dad or another team member. Writing down protocols and implementing them consistently is really important."
One of the dairy's goals is to give consistent care to every cow every day of the year. The team preaches a "24/7/365" mindset. If an employee takes a day off, someone fills in and does that person's job without missing a beat. Having written protocols for everyone to follow enables the team to operate without lapses in procedure.
"When we started writing down goals and values, we really made progress," recalled Pat. "I hear dairymen say they don't have standard operating procedures in place, but I'd say every dairy does - they're just in someone's head and not written down. For us, it works better when they're written down."
The Maier Farm team milks cows three times a day and raises its replacement heifers. A variety of crops are grown, including corn, alfalfa, soybeans and wheat. While some crops are purchased for feed from neighbors, Pat calls the farm a "360 dairy" because they like to do as much as they can internally.
Pat's responsibilities include taking a lead role in managing the dairy team. At a young age, his dad involved him in the business and encouraged him to "learn, learn and learn." Scott's strategy was to delegate responsibility and Pat applies the same strategy when managing his team, enabling employees to learn faster.
"We encourage and support. You can't micro manage and expect good things in return. It can be tough to delegate, but you have to do it. Encourage employees, inspire them and yet hold them accountable," he said.
Pat and other Maier Farm team members have attended multiple PDPW conferences, including national programs such as Business Conference and Managers Academy.
"The Business Conference has great breakout sessions that are relevant to our business. You learn. You network," Pat said. "I've made some great friends through the Business Conference - and you can learn as much at dinner sitting with the leading farmers in the industry."
Daun recently completed PDPW's inaugural Financial Literacy for Dairy® class. "Having a solid understanding of our financial position and strength is important to me," Daun said. "As part of a multi-generation farm, we're committed to having a thriving family business for my children in the next generation."
Going forward, Pat plans to have more employees cross-trained so no one feels limited in their development opportunities at the farm. He wants knowledge and understanding to permeate the team.
"As I see my young daughter running around on the farm it reminds me I'm trying to create a sustainable business, take great care of our animals and land, and do things right," Pat said, "because someday she might want to join."