Current Progressive Dairy digital edition

1408 PD: What is more important: Cows or people?

Tom Wall Published on 29 September 2008

It’s an age-old business mantra – put the customer first.

And in the grand scheme of things, this is and always will be true. However, a lot of people would say that in a company with many employees, the customer is actually second.



According to this argument, you should put the employees first. In other words, if you focus on making sure your employees enjoy what they do and care about how they do it, the customer will benefit and have a great experience. Ultimately, by taking care of employees first, customers truly feel like they are number one.

OK, so what does that have to do with your dairy? As I see it, cows are actually your customers. If you take good care of them, they will reward you with top-notch milk and calves for years to come. If you take really good care of them, you’ll get a lot of quality milk and calves!

At most dairies, the majority of time and money is allocated to addressing the needs of the cattle. And for the most part, that makes perfect sense. Without good cows (customers), you’d go out of business!

Now, I’m not saying that putting the cows first is wrong by any means. I’m just looking at the dairy from a slightly different perspective. For example, how many hours do you invest meeting with your vet, nutritionist and hoof trimmer to manage the overall herd and troubleshoot specific cows? Now, how many hours do you invest with your team and each individual to troubleshoot specific areas of the dairy?

Ideally, the answer for the number of hours spent with your team would be the larger of the two. Why? Generally speaking, when one cow stops producing or starts causing problems, her performance doesn’t affect all the other cows in the herd. Yes, it’s necessary to deal with this one cow – you either fix her or ship her out the door. But again, her impact is usually isolated to just that one animal.


In the case of employees, one milker has an impact on all the cows (and co-workers). If just one milker is untrained, disgruntled or simply not committed to taking care of your customers (cows), the entire herd is at risk. In order to truly put your cows first, start with your employees. Your employees, after all, are what make you and your cows successful. Continue to educate, communicate and motivate your team to do what’s best for the cattle. Success will surely follow. PD

Tom Wall
President of Language Links

The following article topic also appears in this month’s El Lechero. This article has been written specifically for dairy owners and herdsmen. The article in El Lechero is written for dairy employees.