June 12, 2012

Connection with our Customers Through Emotions

It occurred to me a few weeks ago after reading and engaging in some other blog posts about agriculture that sometimes we need to involve some emotion in our story.  Not the bad emotion of lashing out, name calling, and not being open minded to those who don't believe in using our products but a good emotion that shows our full character.  HSUS uses emotion to collect millions of dollars annually from mostly good hearted people who don't want to see cute kittens and puppies hungry or abused.  They give money because they believe that they are helping to feed and shelter and animal in need (FYI - less than 1% of their donation actually goes to help an animal, see their tax returns on humanwatch.org website).  I as a farmer don't want to see my animals sick, hungry, or in pain either but in some peoples eye I am a cruel, heartless, and terrible person because I raise cattle to provide food for hundreds of people world wide. 

This calf needed some help into the world on a
very cold day.  He warmed up in the garage by
the heater while the vet fixed is mom up.  I
gave him a dry rug to lay on but he preferred
the cardboard.

We in the industry can use all the facts, figures, and data in the world to prove that we are doing right by the animals but sometime maybe showing our emotions would go quite a ways.  Now I still believe 123% that our decisions on the farm should be made using sound science and proven techniques and technology to give our livestock the best life possible.  But I also realize that most of the farmers that I know wouldn't let anybody see the soft side of them because they were taught to stand strong, don't give up, and that crying won't fix the problem.  We have to grow a tough outer shell because we work with a lot of unknown and many things that we have absolutely zero control over.  We have to be tough to work in weather conditions that most would not dare to go outside in.  We have to be strong willed and determined to work well into the early morning hours to finish what ever it is that NEEDS to be done before "quiting" time.  But on the other side of that hard outer shell is a soft side that most people never get to see (including spouses and children), most farmers don't want to seem to be anything but strong and may view softness as a weakness.  But sometimes I think we need to show that we do have a soft side and it is perfectly OK to let our customers see that soft side once and a while.  I am not going to turn on the water works or support media that would use emotion to "steal" money from others, but the soft side is where the love of our livestock is at and we need to show that we in fact do care about them!!  

Born on a frosty morning and enjoyed a few
minutes under the heater in the blazer on his
way to the barn to be re-united with his momma

Like many other farmers we have put a chilled calf in our vehicle or garage to warm them up.  I took my coat off and wrapped it around is cold calf while I waited for Mark to come pick us up this spring.  We waited patiently for our injured bull to slowly get in the trailer so we could get him to the vet when we could have "hoo rawed" him and got him loaded faster but taking his time he was in less pain and was less likely to further injure himself (he weighs 1800 lbs I am not going to just pick him up and carry him).  We talked gently and worked quietly while we worked with a first time mother to get her to love her calf and let him nurse.  We do feel the pain and anger every time we loose a calf and it doesn't get easier with time either.  Yes we are in the business of raising food, we are trying to make a living doing what we love and what we love is taking good care of the land and livestock!!
We didn't get much practice this year feeding in the snow (it only snowed twice) but we hauled fresh hay to the cows that were grazing cornstalks to make sure they had enough to eat to get them through the cold spell.

Cleaning pens so our cattle are never "knee deep" in their own manure.  We recycled the organic fertilizer to our fields to grow more corn and hay.

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