Dairy farming is not what it used to be. DUH. The only way to get paid for your milk is to provide it to people who want it in the way that they want it. We are so convinced of this at “Specialty Milk Equals Money Everyday” looked at processors and consumers and the products that they want and will pay for. Successfully reaching this evolving market might require that as dairy producers, you have to change your mind about some aspects of getting the milk that you produce to the marketplace. Having said that, you may read this and rank yourself with those who are convinced that there is no need for you personally to change. Even faced with the incontrovertible facts of today’s overproducing, underpaying, profit losing dairy industry, we say, “I’m not changing. My mind is made up!”
To date, your view of the world has provided you with a certain amount of dairy-producing success! In the past, there have been times when your view of the world was very different from the actual world, and you held firm to your course and made it through. You are crossing your fingers that holding on this time will work again. However, past and present are no longer in step with success. “The past foretells the future” only works when there is money in the bank, healthy animals on the farm and an ability to ignore all signs of desperation and disregard for the agitated voices at the farm gate who are calling to you to listen to them!
Choosing Friends Over Facts
Regardless of what side of the farm gate you identify with, we dairy farmers, like the dairy animals in our pastures are herd animals. We are happiest in a non-threatening and bonding environment. We do not want to be cast out or separated from the herd. Where the herd goes, we go. If the herd says, “farmers are producing unhealthy products”. We agree. If the herd says, “The government will save our farms because we are an iconic part of our country’s history.” We sit. And wait. We don’t believe these statements because they are correct. We believe them because doing so makes us part of the group and we want to look good to that group. The statements are factually false, but socially accurate. When having to choose between the two, we often select friends and family over facts.
Friend Or Foe. Who Do You Know? Whose Side Are You On?
There are so many truths in the food industry. Milk is bad. (Lactose intolerance is real.) Farm factories are bad. Small farms are good. (Dairy intolerance is growing.) Pet owners love cows. Dairy farmers mistreat cows. (Dairy farmer mistrust is on the rise.) While seeking, truth, we all strive to be on the blameless higher ground and, at the same time, to be connected with like-minded friends. However, when opposing alignments regarding issues of health and family are affected, our openness becomes inflexible, and we dig into our protectionist position.
People who align themselves against what they call factory farms or what they see as animal mistreatment or what they perceive as destructive environmental practices, do so because they feel it keeps them belonging to their chosen group.
The best way to change their mind is to sit down at a meal together. Something about handing bowls of food around or even asking a stranger to pass the milk pitcher draws us closer than the usual divisive influences of where we live, how we speak, and what we wear.
Repetition Is The Law
The number of people who believe an idea is directly proportional to the number of times it has been repeated during the last year—even if the idea is false. For this reason, we need to learn not to keep attacking every piece of misinformation or unsupported fear-mongering. In frenemy situations, time is better spent championing good ideas than tearing down bad ones. There is no point in endlessly explaining why bad ideas are bad. You are merely flamming the flame. Feed the good ideas and let the bad ideas die of starvation.
“I Can’t Let These Idiots Get Away with This”
If the goal is actually to change minds, then I don’t believe criticizing the other side is the best approach. Like it or not, we are the voice of dairy farming. Is it confrontational? Is it huffily arrogant? Are we running for cover?? Must we win at all costs? OR. Are we as producers willing to not win in order to keep the conversation going? It isn’t simply in social settings. The conversations need to open up with processors too. And with nutritionists and veterinarians. In fact, with everyone we work with in the line from dairy stable to table
“I Want What You’ve Got!”
With so many hands lining up at the farm gate, we may perceive that we all have different interest. As stated, these competing interests involve feed suppliers, nutritionists, and veterinarians, to name a few. Even dairy associations join the us versus them, national versus state or provincial, battles. We get so wrapped up in gaining an advantage that both parties lose focus and fail to provide the needed services that make the dairy industry relevant in the modern marketplace. In-fighting over shares of the pie is irrelevant if nobody in the marketplace wants the pie.
Who’s Your Frenemy Today?
As the industry is challenged, organizational factors create new bands of frenemies around leadership, management and even core values. Furthermore, something as simple as scarcity of resources can trigger new alignments and new conflicts. A better solution would be to work together to find a replacement product or to prioritize the areas with the most urgent need.
In Dairy Wars There Are No Winners
It is ironic that a quick look at potential conflicts within the dairy industry can be quite extensive:
- Breeds vs Milk Recording
- Milk Recording vs Cloud Software
- Scientists vs Breeder Cow Knowledge
- Traditional dairy bull breeders vs AI
- Small vs Large Dairy Farms
- Nutritionists vs Vets
- Show Breeders vs Production Breeders
- Animal rights vs Dairy Farm animal management
We are so caught up in winning that we forget about connecting. It’s easy to spend energy, labelling people rather than working with them. Our inter-industry fighting distracts from the biggest threat to the entire industry, which is out there and growing exponentially:
Milk vs Milk Alternatives
Is Milk A Healthy Diet Friend Or A Dangerous Health Enemy?
This is the core question that the dairy industry needs to address. Articles such as the one by NBC News Health Editor, Madelyn Fernstrom, (July 26, 2018) “Is milk really good for you? “is a good starting point for fact-based discussions of the issues surrounding milk as a nutritious food source.
The Bullvine Bottom Line
The very fact that we are producing a food product means that we directly impact the personal health, family health and social lives of our customers. We don’t want to win a conversation. We don’t want them to change their minds about liking farmers or disliking modern farming. We want consumers to enjoy delicious healthy food. We need to establish trust. If we can manage to be kind first and be right later, we can make good progress at turning frenemies at the farm gate into friends in the food aisle.