Current Progressive Dairy digital edition

A ‘relevant’ and ‘useful’ tip for tough times

Progressive Dairyman Editor Peggy Coffeen Published on 17 April 2018

The editorial team at Progressive Dairyman is committed to providing you with information that is two things: relevant and useful.

This issue again delivers on that promise, but I’m hoping one of the most helpful tidbits you pick up from these pages is right here.



As you browse through, you will find concepts that reflect the current challenges of the dairy industry. Whether it’s Dr. Victor Cabrera’s economically based breeding strategies (Pick a straw: conventional, sexed or beef semen?) or opportunities to maximize herd management during times when margins are tight (10 key herd management opportunities during low-margin times), this magazine is chock-full of ideas to make the best of what many dairy farmers are finding to be a difficult financial time.

Now get that sticky note ready because I’m going to add one more relevant and useful tip to your list that has the potential to significantly improve your situation, your employee morale and even your health: Be kind.

That may sound oversimplified and even silly, but hear me out. The impact of even a small kind gesture can have a large ripple effect on you and all those around you, like your family members and farm team.

During a time when some dairy farmers are receiving suicide awareness letters tucked into their milk checks, we’ve got to take health seriously. Financial strain, loneliness, and mental and physical exhaustion mixed together make for a deadly cocktail. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There is hope and peace to be found through kindness.

Research shows performing acts of kindness not only elevates your own morality level, but it raises the morality level of all of those who are watching. In a study examining neurological scans of people viewing heroic acts of kindness versus humorous videos, the kind acts spiked reactions in the parts of the brain tied to feelings of justice and peace. On the other hand, the funny videos did not elicit any nervous system activity.


This might explain why a kind act I witnessed at the recent Professional Dairy Producers Annual Business Conference stuck in my mind and on my heart. While comfortably seated in a breakout session learning about new data-integrating technology from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, I noticed the organization’s dairy farmer president, Mitch Breunig, in the room.

I’m sure he would have loved to listen intently to what the researchers had to say, but he was too busy. Too busy being kind. As attendees trickled in and the seats filled up, Mitch gave up his own seat, then continually brought in chairs for others to accommodate the standing-room-only crowd. I doubt he heard much of the presentation, but the message of kindness his actions spoke was loud and clear.

Just as the study indicates, watching Mitch put the comfort of others before his own boosted the morale of others. Though I wasn’t even a direct recipient of the kind act, it still warmed my heart and reminded me how dairy farmers will give the shirt off their back to help one another or, in this case, give up a chair to make more room at the table.

Many of us in the dairy industry could use a raise in morale right now. Perhaps you’ve even found your actions toward family members or employees reflecting stress more than kindness. But even one small intentional, genuinely kind effort can make a difference.

Kindness doesn’t have to be a grand gesture; it can be as simple as a thought. Participants in a University of North Carolina study practiced meditations focused on positive feelings of love, compassion and goodwill toward themselves and others, repeating phrases like, “May you feel safe, may you feel happy, may you feel healthy, may you live with ease.”

Over a six-week period, those studied experienced an increase in positive emotions like joy and serenity, along with improvements in heart rate variability. These results indicate kind thoughts can be good for both your body and your mind.


While the useful and relevant conversations around kitchen tables and office desks right now are often on the subject of tightening dairy farm budgets, this is not the time to put a spending cap on kindness. Whether it’s a simple action like giving up a chair or even a pleasant thought of well wishes for a neighbor, it just might be the most important management decision you make.  end mark

Peggy Coffeen
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