The Birds of Douglasdale Dairy

CFO Brad Wentzel reveals how he sparked a new interest in the dairy’s bird life with a competition.

Douglasdale Dairy has been on the same property for 115 years and, having started as a farm, the property is still zoned as agricultural land in the heart of the city of Johannesburg. Because of this, there are many acres of fauna and flora.

“We are very passionate about our heritage and the preservation of our trees. For this reason, we don’t want to put up any new structures that will impact the natural ecosystem of the land,” says CFO Bradley Wentzel.

As a result of this preservation, there are over 40 bird species that call Douglasdale Dairy home.

While in his office, which looks out on the Douglasdale Dairy property, Bradley spotted one of these birds flying past his window one day. “At the time I thought it was a magnificent big green parrot that flew past, and I honestly thought it was the most beautiful bird I’d ever seen,” he explains.

Not an ornithologist or even an avid bird watcher, Bradley did some investigating and discovered that the bird was actually a green wood hoopoe.

Amazed by the beautiful green bird with white flecks on its wings, he went to the resident ornithologist at the dairy, the HR manager Sara Cooper. Brad was inspired to get the entire organisation to stop and look at the wildlife around them. Together, Bradley, Sara and the group’s marketing manager Amber Heylen, came up with the ‘Birds of Douglasdale Dairy’ competition.

“We put together a brochure with the different types of birds that can be found on the Douglasdale Dairy property, and whenever people see a bird, they can tick it off on the brochure,” Bradley explains. “When someone has ticked off all the birds, they win an incentive prize.”

He adds that the prize is an item of clothing that the winners can then wear around the dairy as a sense of pride and achievement, and to drive the rest of the workforce to do the same, instead of a cash reward. “The staff here have a great sense of pride in their workplace, and this prize is a great addition to appreciate those who truly take an interest in their work environment.”

The competition had been running for two months, but there hasn’t been a ‘bingo’ just yet. Bradley, who also has quite a way to go before he can cash in his brochure, explains that some of the birds are harder to find, like the kingfisher and the harrier hawk.

“There was some trepidation as to whether there would be any uptake of the competition, but everyone loves it! You often see people walking around looking for new birds to tick off.”

Bradley explains that the competition has proven quite successful in getting the Douglasdale Dairy workers to show interest in the area, culture and history of the land itself. He adds that it also ingrains some of the cultures into the workforce itself: “that we care about the local fauna and flora, and that we don’t cut down trees because they are homes for all our wildlife.

“I think it’s been great! I, for one, know a lot more about birds than I used to!”

You can read the full Special Feature in the first 2022 edition of the CFO Magazine.