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HERd management: Tell your story for the good

Emily Zweber Published on 11 March 2015

females on farm

Our fourth-generation family dairy farm produces some of the best milk in the world.

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Our cows are certified organic, a mix of purebreds and crossbreds, and graze on lush grasses during the warmer months.

Let’s stop right there. I am going to guess some of you were offended by my first two sentences. Maybe your farm looks nothing like ours, but you still believe your cows are producing the best milk in the world.

In your mind, you are discrediting everything I have just written. Maybe your farm looks similar to ours, and you are thinking, “But my farm produces some of the best milk in the world too.”

You know what? You are right. If your farm isn’t trying to produce the best milk in the world, you are doing something wrong. Why is it, though, that we (in generalities) are very defensive as an industry when one of us positively promotes their farm?

Look at the comment section in any dairy publication or take to social media and you will instantly see that we dairy farmers don’t like it when one of us is perceived as better than the others. Maybe it stems from our humble roots, but it is starting to get nasty out there.

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“Milk is milk” is a mantra that we say over and over, but we often use it in a way to show that your milk is no better than my milk. Why can’t we use the “milk is milk” mantra to say, “Your milk is awesome because of that, and my milk is awesome because of this; all milk is awesome.”

While all milk is nutritious and safe, each dairy farm and dairy brand have differentiating qualities. These differences bring healthy competition to the marketplace. A competitor does not equal an enemy.

I would much rather have a consumer overwhelmed by all the great choices of real dairy beverages at the grocery store than trying to remember which one was supposedly the “bad” milk and deciding to buy a non-dairy beverage instead.

We have been told over and over again to tell our story. We have taken to blogs, Facebook and Twitter as the “voice of agriculture.” Often, though, I find dairy producers are spending more time trying to discredit other dairy farmers.

This isn’t telling your story. Why are we wasting our energy and time? Why is it so important to prove that others are wrong? Instead, we should be praising the fact that milk of all different production methods is a great choice.

We are all doing our best to produce the best milk in the world. Sure there are rivalries between milk brands, but other dairy farmers are not your enemy. As I mentioned previously, we are all trying to produce the best milk in the world. Let us embrace, and even praise, our differences to elevate the dairy industry as a whole.

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Here is my process when I need to decide if another dairy brand’s promotion is worth my attention: Does my audience or do my customers care about this issue?

If yes, then I leverage the positive promotion in my favor. If no, I smile and think to myself, “Good for that brand and the industry.” The key is that I try hard not to write negatively about another dairy farmer.

As there become fewer of us waking up each day caring for dairy cows, we cannot keep going down the path of trying to destroy one another. Let’s leverage individual farm and dairy brand success to raise up the whole dairy industry.PD

emily zweber

Emily Zweber
Dairy Producer
Elko, Minnesota

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