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The KEY TO SUCCESSFUL DAIRY FARMING: Remember what your Mother Always Said!

Here at the Bullvine we spend a lot of time reporting on and recognizing achievements in the dairy industry.  Dinner table conversations often revolve around those who are successful leaders who spark our minds, touch our hearts and make us smile. It is only logical that we all have opinions on how these exceptional people rise to this level of recognition in the dairy industry.  One thing we all agree on is that it isn’t as simple as putting on a three-piece suit and carrying a leather briefcase. In my opinion, those who aspire to the pinnacle of dairy success, must recognize that, as in the genetic side of the dairy industry, success has a lot to do with who your Mother is. By that I mean it depends on what your Mother always says!  (Whenever I say this at home it causes excessive eye-rolling!)

According to my firstborn son and his two siblings, two things that are even more certain than “death and taxes” are me and my clichés. According to them, their mother is “faster than a speeding bullet” in whipping out the appropriate cliché to illustrate truths, design action plans or to prove the inevitability of daily conspiracy theories. No doubt you join them in noticing that in my writing for the Bullvine, clichés are “as thick as hair on a dog!” Whenever I urge them to “think outside the box”, they quickly respond that I have to stop clinging to jargon that no longer means anything in the modern world of dairy business. However, for me “Mother always said….” is a proven preface for discovering pearls of wisdom that I learned from my mother and that should never be forgotten as you seek success in dairying.

Mother always said, “There’ll never be a better time than right now!”

Waiting for the perfect time, conditions or horoscope isn’t going to make as big a difference in your situation as actually getting started will. There is positive momentum in every move forward. Furthermore mother knows that the place to start is where you are at today.  You cannot start where the previous generation ended off.  You cannot start where your successful neighbor already is. Know where you are in the growth cycle of your business. When you know where you are right now, you can decide where you want to be.  The difference between the two places is YOU! Take a hard look in the mirror and then get started at narrowing the gap.

Of course, you quickly recall the nuggets of wisdom gleaned from your Mother and hurry to speak up with one my mother used quite often.

Mother always said, “Actions speak louder than words.”

Words can be positive, giving encouragement and praise, or negative, delivering complaints, criticism or excuses.  But, at the end of the day, words alone cannot get the job done. You can’t talk a calving, a milking line or feeding program into a success.  Good managers focus on doing the right jobs.  They are NOT looking after the fact for excuses for failure. They are constantly looking forward and acting on their priorities.

Mother always says, “A loud noise denotes an empty head.”

Sometimes we build our courage with a lot of explanation, talking and excuses.  However, too much talk can hold back your business.  Of course, talk goes both ways, and we can be negatively impacted by listening to too much real or perceived criticism.  And then there are always some dairy managers are comfortable with the talking and planning but lag when it comes to actually putting a plan into action.

So now you see Mother’s wisdom, and you assure her that, “Good things come to those who wait!” WRONG!  Good things come to those who work their backsides off and never give up!

Mother always said, “Smart is as Smart does!”

It is a trend in farm families today that the younger generation is seeking education to support their agriculture careers.  My grandfather loved to say, “These kids have more degrees than a thermometer.” But, once again, mother wants the degree to do more than take up space on the wall. She knows that the real test of smart dairy farming depends on the choices you make. Those choices better be well thought out and analyzed before you make them. It will only be smart if it moves your dairy toward the goals you are trying to achieve.

Mother always said, “Hard work is the key to success.”

Mother didn’t believe in waiting around for something good to happen, “Don’t wish for it.  Work for it!”  It wasn’t good enough to submit a wish list or hope that Santa Claus would fulfill every longing.  If it meant something to us to have it, we had to be prepared to put in the work.  Many a dream (and even a horse or two) was built on the back of back-breaking work, whether it was on our own farm or picking strawberries, cucumbers, tomatoes.  It’s great to have more money, more land, more help.  But more successful farmers start pulling ahead of the rest by investing more “sweat equity” every day!!

Mother always said, “What goes around comes around.”

Whether you are dealing with crop prices or sale prices on calves, cows and bulls, if you’re in the dairy industry for the long haul you will see that there is a cycle to most things.  Discerning farmers don’t make huge capital investments on the basis of one good year. They also don’t sell when a tough year or two (or more) rears its ugly head. My father was a home builder, and he prepared for a seven-year cycle, always making sure that he had something “salted away for a rainy day”.

Mother always said, “Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.

You wouldn’t be blamed if you felt that tough times seem to hit the dairy industry repeatedly.  There are even those who foretell the demise of this dairy company, that dairy sector or even the whole industry.  But “the past foretells the future! So rest assured there will always be dairy farmers but it will mean they will be the ones who toughen up.

To some, being tough might mean backstabbing or working over enough people to make it to the top.  This isn’t the kind of toughness mom was talking about. She means the toughness that sees you through hard times and even failure.  When you ask yourself, “Where do I go from here?” Mother’s toughness refers to having the courage to take control and triumph over adversity through your core strength that is built on integrity, personal honesty, and accountability.

Mother always said, “If everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you?”

Don’t follow the crowd.  You’ve got to stand up to stand out says Mother.  Just because it worked for someone else … or nobody else…. It only matters, if you let it stop you. Farmers are well known for talking over the fence, in the barn alley or on “The Milk House”. The best conversations are the ones that lead to actions.  There’s no real value in seeking out confirmation for what you are already doing. While it’s affirming to be part of a large group, it’s really important to make sure that “everybody’s doing it” doesn’t become your recipe for failure. Habit patterns and ways of thinking become deeply engrained.  It seems easier to follow the crowd than to cope with change. Before you jump off the cliff, do some independent thinking and research. Realize your own dreams.

Mother always said, “A woman’s work is never done!”

Having seriously considered the preceding motherly steps to success, you have a list that could truly help you on your road.  There are purpose and priority to everything on her list.  When you know why you do what you do, you’ll end up getting a lot more done but remember Mother’s message — not only for women but for every dairy manager – “work is never done!” Being “done” is a terrible myth.  Seeking to be finished stresses out many people.  And yet there’s absolutely no need for it.  Simply “do what you love and love what you do!”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

If you want to develop an eye for cows, and a head for the dairy business, you’ve got to start with your ears! The wisdom to see you rise to the top is out there.  Sometimes it comes disguised as a cliché from Mother that, if you really listen, makes a whole lot of sense.  In conclusion, always remember Mother’s bottom line:  “If you can list what you’ve done, you haven’t done enough! And, at the end of the day, “If at first you don’t succeed —– try doing it the way she told you to in the first place!”



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