Team meetings: Fire showcases dairy team’s strengths

By Pat Hansen


In approximately 15 minutes, the flash fire burned across the top of the recently built 720-cow free stall barn. It was about 4:15 p.m. on a quiet Wednesday in June 2012. The days and months that followed showcased the strengths of the dairy’s four-year-old advisory team.

“Everybody had the trust of each other, and everybody kicked in and did their part,” said Larry Dufek, owner of Dairyland Farm, New Franken, Wis. “We had a quick team meeting with ‘here’s what we got, what we’ve got to do, and how we’re going to get it done.’ ” 


Immediate action

Dr. Jack Hansen of the Valley Vet Clinic, Seymour, Wis. was already doing triage and working his veterinary network to confirm best practices for burn care. “It’s not something I run across that often,” he said.

Likewise, Kristy Pagel, the team’s facilitator and a Diamond V regional sales manager, had contacted her network of animal health experts. They quickly identified a relatively new wound treatment. 

“It’s a veterinary wound spray that turns out to be a product used with human skin grafts,” Dr. Hansen said. “It turned out to be the perfect treatment.”

Meanwhile Dufek focused on logistics. A.I. tech Mike Conard from Genex, who knows the cattle as well as anyone, began sorting cows and getting pens squared away.

The nutritionist adjusted the ration to keep cows on feed through the stress of the fire and 95°F days.

Supervisors communicated with dairy employees and discussed care procedures. They learned that “we’re spraying the cows’ backs twice a day with this product and this is how to use it,” Dufek said. 

Later, the focus shifted to rebuilding morale, dealing with the emotions of the tragic fire, rebuilding the facility, and getting back to normal. 

The banker found financing for the rebuild. The same blueprint was used as before.


Big picture

Big picture, “with the team in place, you have a number of key contact people who trust each other to make decisions and to do the right things for the dairy,” Dufek said.

His team meets monthly for up to an hour and a half. Pagel sends out an agenda in advance, facilitates the meeting, and follows up with meeting notes and assignments. All meeting content remains strictly confidential.

Meetings kick off with lunch.

“Then we get down to business, everybody is really pretty open,” said Conard. “There’s nothing that doesn’t get said.”

Team members take turns sharing updates on their key area of focus.

“If there’s an issue going on, you really have everyone who would be involved with the cows there,” Dr. Hansen said. “If too many cows are being culled, for instance, you have the herdsman, owner, breeder and vet right there. Having everyone in the same room gets to the real issues faster, more efficiently and more timely.”

Dufek prompts longer-term discussions, too. For instance, heat stress considerations are discussed before spring arrives. The discussions include heat abatement activities and equipment status.

Being on the team pushes members to excel. 

“Larry knows I go through every pen every day, and he asks if there’s anything broken,” Conard said. “We go through that, it’s written down, and 99% of that is fixed by the next meeting. I serve as another set of eyes for Larry.” 

“Because you‘re given responsibility and are a valued member of the team, it makes you work harder; you want to do a better job,” Dr. Hansen said. “That’s human nature.”

In addition, the team as a whole is on a lot of dairies. Its members make wide-ranging, accumulated knowledge instantly available.


Kristy Pagel is a team meeting facilitator and Regional Sales Manager with Diamond V. Contact her via email