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Is it a pet peeve, costing you money or costing everyone?

Harley Wagenseller Published on 20 July 2011

Often in our dairy lives we meet with different situations that you can label either irritating or costly. Some of these irritations (pet peeves) can be from either family members or employees. But beyond being annoying, are some of these issues even costly?

Let’s examine a few of these areas to see whether we should tolerate some pet peeves or not.

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At times we all get a “brain cramp” and do something rather stupid, inconsiderate or neglectful of protocols or common sense.

An example, you ask? An employee arrives at the dairy at 3 a.m. for his shift with his car stereo so loud that it rattles the windows in your home. Or a friend arrives to pick up someone from work at 11 p.m. and blows the horn four or five times to alert your employee they are there to take him or her home.

A similar irritation I have seen while visiting and talking with owners at other dairies is the “piece of trash” that no one picks up for several days because all the employees reason: “I didn’t do it. Therefore, I don’t have to bend over and pick it up.”

These will undoubtedly bring about wrath from the conscientious owner or his wife. “Someone will hear about this,” this type of owner will say. You may even shake your head and stomp your feet, if these things were done by a family member or employee.

These things are irritating because we want the public to know that we care and we don’t want to be inconsiderate to our employees or neighbors. These are important principles, as will be discussed later, but do these pet peeves deserve our greatest wrath?

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Could some of these things be calmly addressed and forgiven? What are the more costly mistakes being made because of a lack of care and consideration on our dairies?

An error that can be not only irritating but costly is misplacing tools.

Let’s say you have a designated place for jumper cables or a special battery pack for emergency battery (failure-to-start) issues. One morning your scraper tractor will not start at 6 a.m. You go to the designated area where these items are supposed to be and – Oh, my goodness – they are not there!

Now you and another employee spend 20 minutes looking everywhere for them. And, unfortunately, that scraper tractor was left in an area which blocks the return alley for cows leaving the barn. Now you can’t find your jumper cables and the milk parlor is backed up because your night scraper didn’t leave the tractor in the designated area after scraping.

The little irritations are now turning into costly errors that affect your pocket book. You frantically call the employee, who states, “Oh, by the way, I borrowed the emergency jumper starting equipment last night and was going to bring it back soon.”

Frustrating, isn’t it? Yes. But it’s also costly in both wasted time and higher blood pressure. Attention to mistakes will help avoid an even more costly mistake to all of us.

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Consider the cost of a perpetually poorly maintained farm. When you arrive on such a farm you might first see filthy calf hutches that are falling apart with inadequate bedding. Society detests seeing children not taken care of; consumers consider calves like children. If people sense that calves (babies) on one operation are not taken care of, it costs us all.

But that could just be the beginning. Next you might notice a freestall where cows lie on a lot of dirt and manure with very little sand, shavings, rice hulls, straw or whatever your favorite bedding is. You next move to the milk parlor and might see dip cups so old and discolored that you hardly recognize them.

Milk hoses might be full of cracks and very discolored; pulsation lines and air tubes might be cracked and put together with electrical tape. Slimy floor areas all around the bulk tank might be dangerous to walk on.

You might see cows that need a hoof trimmer because their toes are 5 inches longer than is normal. These cows would limp and look absolutely neglected. This same farm might have saved every piece of scrap metal since 1955. Several old pickups might be dead wherever they last stopped. There might be mud everywhere due to inadequate drainage.

After 30 minutes of this vision of disorganization, you would retreat to your vehicle and all you would think about is saying a prayer! Wow, it’s a tough experience, but something more people should do. What some folks fail to realize is the impression this farm might have on the public in general. This is where the “cows are mistreated and full of antibiotics” crazy talk comes from. It’s costly to our image.

People fail to see all the farms where calf hutches look new; calves have plenty of bedding; cows are well-bedded in their freestalls; cows have access to pasture where there is plenty of grass; there aren’t piles of junk all over the farm. Farms where cows have been given proper care and just almost seem happy to have visitors. Perhaps a farm like yours.

All this ranting is not done to put down but to encourage us all to think about the most costly errors. Often some of the most irritating things do not cost money, but simply drive us crazy. And often it’s the things that should irritate us that cost us the most with our consumer image.

Can we overlook a pet peeve? Or give constructive criticism to correct one-time costly bad behavior? Or do we need to make the little things our pet peeve to improve the overall image of our farm and our industry?

Don’t ever give up in trying to improve your farm, as it benefits our dairy community at large, but weigh the cost of the irritation first. PD

Wagenseller is a dairy farm manager at Blakes Landing Farms, a grazing dairy in Marshall, California, just north of San Fransico. Share your funniest cow stories with him at

Harley Wagenseller
  • Harley Wagenseller

  • Dairy Manager
  • Blakes Landing Farms
  • Email Harley Wagenseller

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