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Archive for Dairy Cattle Ethics

Empty Chairs at Empty Tables

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Since the beginning, the Bullvine has been committed to talking about the issues that others run from.  It’s not surprising that this has provoked a lot of discussion.  From both sides.  Adding to everything is the power of the internet and social media, which is the biggest megaphone the world has ever known.  There is no question that the Bullvine has taken the dairy industry by storm.

Do You Hear the People Singing?

For years I have stood in barns and at cattle picturing sessions and listened to some of the most passionate people in the industry complain that change is needed.  Hearing that cry inspired   us to start the Bullvine and give a voice to that call for change.  From A.I. organizations to photo and show ethics and hothouse herds we have faced the issues.  (Read –  Dairy Cattle Photography: Ethics and Copyright, Business Ethics and Marketing Dairy Cattle Genetics, Has Photo Enhancement Gone Too Far?, The Hot House Effect on Sire Sampling, Select Sires vs. Semex – A Contrast in Cooperatives)

At the Bullvine we did not enter this with the delusional belief that we thought it would be easy. Having been involved at various levels in this industry for many years, the team here at the Bullvine knew that this would not come quickly.  The parties on both sides of these issues are very passionate and see the virtue in what they are doing.

Whenever you raise discussion about touchy issues in an industry as passionate as the dairy industry, you know that it’s going to get personal.  That is what makes the dairy industry so amazing.  For all those involved it’s more than just a job.  It’s a livelihood. It’s a way of life.  It’s that passion that drives the need for change.  If the dairy industry was like some industries, people just wouldn’t care.  It wouldn’t matter.  In the dairy industry, it’s because we all care so much that we want to help drive change.


When you take a leadership position, you put yourself in the direct line of fire.  While some like to lead from the rear, that has never been our style (Read more: What the Dairy Industry can Learn From The Firing of Brian Burke).  When my mother and father saw the need to cut costs, redundancy and could see that the Canadian A.I. companies did not want to work together on the world markets, they led the dissolution of the company they were passionate about (The Canadian Association of Animal Breeders).  They faced putting themselves out of work rather than quietly watch that organization become nothing more than a bureaucracy and logistics organization (Canadian Livestock Genetics Association).  Likewise, my brother saw the need to further maximize breeders’ investment in the industry and led the charge for the merger of Holstein Canada and Canadian Dairy Network (CDN).  Our family has never been afraid to face change.

While I have no doubt that others share that same passion, the challenge is always finding a way to see the vision through to the end.  Change is never easy.  There are those that would rather fight than risk change.  I get that.  Therefore, it’s only natural for those who are afraid to start firing bullets at those who push for change.  The part that has always got me is that how when these bullets start firing that many run for the hills instead of picking of the flag and supporting the charge.  Those same people that talked the talk in the barns, at the cow shows and during the picture sessions now find themselves running for the hills.  While the reasons are many, for the most part it comes down to the fact that they are afraid, just like those that are firing the bullets.

Upon These Stones

A funny thing happened on the way to change. The call that was started by some of the biggest names in the industry, that have now abandoned the charge, is now supported by the average breeder.  The groundswell of support that we have received from our readers has been insane!  Upon the stones first laid by those turncoats the banner has now been taken up by those who have felt that they never had a voice.  And that too has changed the voice of the Bullvine.  What started as a voice for education in the marketplace has now become a megaphone for the marketplace to educate its leaders on the need for change.  What started as a new way to market, sell and breed dairy cattle, has now become a rallying cry for those who never had their voices heard.

I want to say thank you to those who first started with us and laid the stones for what has now grown into the most talked about and relevant community in the dairy industry.  Even though it sometimes feels like that there is no one coming to support the battle and it makes you question if the fight is worth it?  Is it worth straining or losing relationships that have been built over the years? Tough question. But then at least 2 or 3 times every day, we receive messages of great appreciation for what we do from people that we have never known or would not have expected to hear from.  This support recharges our conviction and helps us fight that much harder.

In this time when many breeder organizations are having their annual meetings, I ask these new leaders to think about stepping up and taking positions on these boards.  It is time to help those who have already started the call for change to help bring it about.  We have all heard complaints about the direction that these organizations are head in.  Well the only way to bring about change is to step up and be heard.  Otherwise, the positions are filled but, sadly,we are left with empty chairs at empty tables.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Sometimes when we look back at the original group that helped us start the Bullvine, it feels like we are left sitting at an empty table with empty chairs.  However, we are no longer sitting at a small table but rather we are standing with a much larger community.  This one has been built on passion not for dollar signs, but rather built around a vision for tomorrow that is far greater.  This community is not afraid of change but rather demands it.  New leaders have emerged and great new friendships have started.  Voices we never expected now inspire us on a daily basis.  Does this make standing on the front line easy?  No.  However, it does make it worthwhile.  Here at the Bullvine that’s all we need.



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The whole world watched as Lance Armstrong admitted to Oprah that he used EPO, human-growth hormone, testosterone and other drugs to help him win his 7 Tour de France titles.  Actually, many learned about his confession second hand since, not that many people get Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network.  The part that was really interesting is how Mr. Armstrong said he doesn’t consider himself to be a cheater.  He said he looked up the word “cheat” in the dictionary and said the definition—to gain an unfair advantage—doesn’t describe his use of performance-enhancing drugs.  “So many other riders were also using them”, he said, that “the playing field was level”.  This got me to thinking, if leveling the playing field is what some of those in the show and high end genetics world consider that they are doing?

Much has been said about dairy cattle show ethics over the years (Read more – The Code: The Unwritten Rules of Dairy Cattle Show Ethics), as well as the ethics of those breeding and marketing top genetic animals (Read more – Business Ethics and Marketing Dairy Cattle and Has Genomics Knocked Out Hot House Herds?) and also  dairy cattle photography ethics (Read more – Dairy Cattle Photography: Ethics and Copyright and Has Photo Enhancement Gone Too Far?).  People feel very strong on both sides of this argument.  Others simply wish to enjoy cattle shows without having to think about the ethics, politics, economics (Read more – RF Goldwyn Hailey: Cash Cow or Cash Hog) and social issues.

Show Ethics and Major Sports They Have a Very Similar Past

The one thing that caught my attention was how for the most part show ethics have mirrored those of the cycling world as well as most other major North American pro sports.  Baseball, Football, Basketball and Hockey (yes we are Canadian so we have to acknowledge Hockey) as well as cycling have all gone through major transformation in their perspective on performance enhancing drugs.

At one time, using illegal drugs or doing unethical practices was seen as a necessary evil in order to compete at the top level.  As Armstrong says the need to take banned substances was like saying “we have to have air in our tires and we have to have water in our bottles.”  Well, in the show scene, at one time, it was pretty much the same.  For the most part in order to compete at the highest level (there are exceptions) you needed to push the limits in order to win the prize.

Villains or Lambs to the Slaughter?

Lance Armstrong is to cycling what Jose Canseco is to Baseball (Read more – The Big Bad Wolf of the Dairy Industry).  Both have been tagged as the poster child for their drug era.  Both sports want to put this dark time behind them.  The debate boils down to whether these two  are really the rare villain or are they  the greatest of their time who performed on the stage demanded  by the spectators  of that time?

It’s funny when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were in pursuit of Roger Maris and his single season home run record, the world watched with great amazement.  Television broadcasts interrupted prime time shows to show a McGwire towering blast.  Previously, interruptions were restricted to an act of war or a Presidential address.  Similarly, everyone loved the great story of Armstrong’s seven Tour de France victories.  But now as the full story comes to light everyone looks back and labels them as horrible people, as evidenced by the treatment of Armstrong in the media, and how both McGwire and Sosa were shunned in the recent Hall of Fame voting.

Have Things Really Changed?

The question now becomes “Has the cheating stopped?  Or are those being tested just one step ahead of the testers?”  There has been great debate in the media whether baseball and the other major sports are really clean, or have the users found new and better ways to elude detection.  In the case of Armstrong, there was regular testing at the time but he was able to elude detection.  It was not until recently that new tests were developed that they were able to confirm his use, since they had his blood samples on file (Something the major pro-sports have not started until recently).  This has me thinking, has the show ring and the genetics market really cleaned up their act?  Or are they just staying one-step ahead?

The Bullvine Bottom Line

In the 90’s and early twenty first century, drug use in sports was so endemic that the moral culpability of individual players who start taking steroids after the use is widespread is much more ambiguous.  Much like the dairy cattle show scene in the late 80’s and early 90’s.  I am sure there are those that will tell you it never happened.  There are also those who will try to tell you that the Apollo Moon landing was a hoax or that there really were UFO’s recovered at Roswell.  Even better, that the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) are controlled by the big A.I companies and they just want to beat the little guy down.  The major lesson is that you can’t waste your time pointing the finger at individuals but, instead, we need to keep working together to improve the industry as a whole.


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