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HERd management: Keeping your cool when things get heated

Annaliese Wegner Published on 16 October 2015
bottle and syringe

As dairy farmers, we know that every day isn’t cow kisses and ear scratches; there are days that aren’t so pretty.

Sure, it’s fun and easy to share photos of the kids helping with morning chores or the sun setting as the cows graze outside, but as farmers and agvocates we need to share the whole truth with our consumers.

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It is up to us to help consumers understand why we cull cows, how we use antibiotics, why we may choose to dock tails and even what it is like when your favorite cow must be euthanized.

Today’s consumer has a lot of power when it comes to how food is grown and raised. If we want to continue to grow and evolve as an industry, we need to connect with our consumers and help them understand our practices.

It can be scary to address such “hot” topics, but I think you might be surprised by the response you get. I have found that consumers want to understand our methods and are generally very perceptive.

In early August, I shared a Facebook post regarding antibiotic use and consumer demand. I was amazed by all of the “likes,” comments and attention the post received.

The morning I wrote the post was just one of those tough farm days as we struggled to help a sick cow feel better. Initially, I didn’t think much of it. When you have a sick animal, it is just standard procedure to do whatever you can to help her.

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For many farmers, this entails a lot of special care and, when necessary, antibiotics. As we administered the antibiotic to the cow, I remember thinking, “Why is this perceived negatively by the media? We are doing the right thing.”

To date, the post has received more than 13,600 “likes” and more than 1,000 comments. Traffic to the post came quickly, and folks were comin’ in hot.

To be honest, I haven’t even read or responded to a majority of the comments; I can’t keep up. Based upon the few comments I have read and the online conversations I have had with readers, most of the responses have been positive.

Sure, there were some who disagreed, but haters gonna hate. I do my best not to dwell on the negative and to keep sharing what I know in an upbeat manner.

The past two years of blogging have taught me to stay calm and positive, even when it seems easier to fire back at the negative commenters.

We are farming in a time where consumers are growing farther and farther away from the farm, but just about everybody has an opinion on food and how it should be raised.

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It can be hard to keep your cool when someone accuses you of untruths or tries to tell you how to farm, but you truly do catch more flies with sugar.

Positivity, even with tough or controversial topics, goes a long way. I think it is important we take these hot topics head on and keep an open, honest line of communication with our consumers.  PD

Annaliese Wegner
  • Annaliese Wegner

  • Dairy Producer
  • Ettrick, Wisconsin

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