Cordel entered the partnership by purchasing and bringing in a nearby farm. Mostly due to his increasing commitment, the company structure and work method were examined and adjustments were made over the last few years. "A clear structure and efficient work methods are important in this company," Cordel says.
In the new structure Cordel is in charge of the overall management of the farm and the others are responsible for a part of the company and work processes. Each Monday there is an operational working meeting, but there is also room for fundamental aspects about collaboration to discuss during these weekly meetings. An accountant and business consultant are brought in on a regular basis. When decisions are being made, half plus one of this voting group have to agree before something is implemented. In the case of big, fundamental choices, such as the recent investment in biogas production, all owners have to agree before a decision is made.
The professionalisation process Cordel initiated is also stated in the mission statement. The company wants to have its own identity, with basic rules on what is expected of the current and future partners. His greatest personal challenge is ‘people management’. “Including two employees and two interns, we have a staff of 10 to 12 people. We have made good arrangements but eventually, in a company structure like this, communication is key.” It is going well, Cordel notes, but he is fully aware of the importance of communication. He is regularly advised in this area.
Cordel is working towards three potential routes to increase the profitability of the total farm: more efficiency in dairy farming, higher yields of products and broadening of the activities. The company is open to new partners, but they will only be given a chance when they contribute to one of these routes. “An entrepreneur who has his own cheese factory would fit in nicely for example.”
Growth without added value is not an option. Legislation enables upscaling, but experience teaches us that in this part of France there is a lot of social resistance to farms with more than 200 cows. The dairy farmer also believes in diversity of the business. “As long as the branches are sizeable enough and are efficient.”
The focus is currently on increasing the efficiency of the dairy cows. Partly thanks to the new structure, the processes have been identified and improved when necessary. Pasture management remains a point of concern, as the farm owns more than 50 parcels of less than one acre. Also the rearing of the young stock leaves room for improvement. Some of the young stock are housed in old buildings, that need renovation in the short term. The rearing of the youngest calves has been spurred with new cubicles for the calves and more attention to feed and health.
It is mainly in meat where higher profits for products are achieved by the farmers. The company recently started using a farm shop near the city Metz, together with three other entrepreneurs. Every week two cows and two calves are slaughtered and the meat is sold in this shop. The dairy farmer estimates the extra profit to be €115 per calf and €1.50 per kilogramme of meat. This has whetted the appetite and there are ideas about producing and selling their own dairy products. “That would be a big step and involves some risks. This is why a milk processing farmer would fit well into our team.”