Research has shown that dairy calves should be actively fed good quality colostrum as soon as possible after birth in order to benefit in the short and long term.
I agree that it is sometimes very difficult to get our point across to a sceptic observer, but it would be great if we could leave them with a positive comment or image of the dairy industry.
One of my most recent experiences with a sceptic observer was a high school student.
We have been involved with the Cows Create Careers program for nearly 10 years, which involves going into high schools and speaking about the opportunities that the dairy industry has to offer, and giving students the opportunity to care for two calves at school for three weeks.
I can guarantee one of the first questions that we get asked is about animal welfare, which most of the time can be dealt with easily by explaining how we care for them and that if we didn’t care for or support our animals for optimum growth and genetic progress, they couldn’t look after us in the terms of business growth, profitability or sustainability.
This year we had a student who, when we first spoke with her had no idea about the dairy industry and told us that her mother didn’t even know what a calf was.
When we came back to the school to pick up the calves three weeks later, we again had several questions about animal welfare, which again we addressed.
Then the same student told us that we were cruel in the way we looked after our animals.
I was stunned as to what she meant. I was certainly upset! I felt that I was being personally attacked.
Then I remembered that she had no idea.
I asked her several questions, and listened very carefully to her answers.
I realised that it was all about her perception, she didn’t understand.
I then took time to explain to her, addressing her issues that she had, about the welfare of our animals.
She seemed to listen, although, I didn’t think she was convinced, or fully understood why.
We met up with her again several months later, I was preparing myself for the worst thinking what was she going to attack us with now?
To my relief she thanked us for the great opportunity, and now understands the effort, care and responsibility that we take, in caring for our animals.
We all need to welcome the chance to educate our community, and take the time to understand what they think and why, and learn how to encourage discussions with our consumers, for positive outcomes.
They are our customers, they are ones that keep us in business, promote our products via word of mouth/multi media/and great experiences, but they can also do us harm if they don’t understand.
We need to stop wasting time defending ourselves and instead take every opportunity to promote our industry, and inform/educate the public.
Take the opportunity to be professional and do your best to always leave a visitor with a positive comment or view of our dairy industry, and in the process gain back the trust that the dairy industry deserves.
Welcome the chance to talk up the dairy industry and be part of a trusted progressive, professional and profitable dairy future.
Jane Sherbourne, Burrawang, NSW