Hilmar, Calif.-based Hilmar Jerseys has been selected as the 2015 Innovative Dairy Farmer of the Year at the International Dairy Foods Association's Dairy Forum, held this week in Boca Raton, Fla.
The award honors dairy producer who employ creativity, excellence and forward thinking to achieve greater on-farm productivity and improved milk marketing.
Hilmar Jerseys is co-owned by Chuck and Mark Ahlem. Frank Dinis, herd manager, and nominator McKenzie Klein, producer relations manager for Hilmar Cheese Company, joined the Ahlems to receive the award.
The farm was formed by Chuck in 1982. The operation now comprises five dairy facilities that cover 4,000 acres and market a total of 143.8 million pounds of milk each year.
The Ahlem's employee training program on animal care and stockmanship produced dramatic improvements on the five dairies.
As employees learned to understand cow behavior and how to handle animals properly, they began to take more pride in their jobs and proactively identified areas of improvement for cow care and comfort. Employee injuries related to working with the cows dropped by 50%.
Noting these positive changes, the Ahlems shared the results with Hilmar Cheese Company, their milk processor. Impressed with the results, Hilmar Cheese partnered with the Ahlems and Elanco to promote the animal care and employee engagement concepts that Hilmar Jerseys was using.
To date, more than 200 people representing 50 dairies have participated in this animal welfare training.