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HERd Management: You don’t have to be heartless to prove your strength

Kelli Woodring for Progressive Dairyman Published on 18 April 2018

Don’t ever feel like you have to hide your sensitivity. Your empathy gives you the ability to detect details that would have gone unnoticed, like that calf who just doesn’t seem herself today. You have a heart – and it’s OK to listen to it.

My cousin recently interviewed me for a school paper about women in agriculture. She asked me what advice I would give a woman working in the same field. I paused, smiled and said “Don’t be afraid to use your voice. Speak up.” It was short and simple and … honestly, it was all I could come up with on the spot.

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After going home that night, I replayed the questions back in my mind. That one stuck with me. After all the struggles I faced as a woman in this business, was that really the best advice I had to give?

It wasn’t bad advice: speak up. It was something I spent a lot of time being afraid to do. I would see and think things but never had the courage to say anything. It took me years of being reserved and quiet until I learned my opinion was important.

But was there any more guidance I could offer?

Here’s what I came up with.

For years, I tried to be tougher. I thought I had to show up at work and paint on a brave face so I could be successful. I was the only woman working on a farm full of men, and I didn’t want any of them to think I was weak. I tirelessly attempted to disconnect my heart from my job. Going to work became almost a burden to me. You see, I thought trying to hide my emotions would make me a better farmer and more like the guys I worked with.

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What I didn’t realize was: Being different was what made me special. I couldn’t take care of cows without compassion. I have never been able to walk by a sick cow without feeling a tug on my heart. It was the exact qualities I was trying to stifle that made me good at my job.

Don’t ever feel like you have to hide your sensitivity. Your empathy gives you the ability to detect details that would have gone unnoticed, like that calf who just doesn’t seem herself today. You have a heart – and it’s OK to listen to it. You have chosen a career that is a never-ending journey of peaks and valleys. You will have rough days that will challenge you. Let them happen. Let them break you down. And then let them change you, so you can come out on the other side even stronger.

I’ve grown up with so many great women in my life. They have given me more advice than I ever knew I needed. I only hope my little piece of advice can find someone who needs to hear it and help them through their journey.  end mark

Kelli Woodring
  • Kelli Woodring

  • Dairy Producer
  • Shippensburg, Pennsylvania
  • Email Kelli Woodring

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