Respectable and Respectful Dairy Farms

Posted: January 13, 2005

How would you rate the respectability of your dairy farm in relation to your environment, neighbors, cows and workers?

How do the words respect, respectful and respectable relate to dairy farms, how they are operated and what the neighbors think about them? Some dairy farms are losing the respect of the public and people do not want them as neighbors. Most people like to be treated with respect and dairy farmers are no different. How would you rate the respectability of your dairy farm in relation to your environment, neighbors, cows and workers? How you treat others is a gauge of your respect for them and also may affect how others respect you.

What actions do dairy farms take to protect the air and water quality from discharges of manure or other pollutants? Is the smell of manure the first sign that a dairy is nearby? Are animals wallowing in mud and manure along streams, silage leachate running down road ditches or milk house drains that discharge into streams? You might see that pasture with the stream running through it as a convenient place to over winter some heifers. Your neighbors and water quality regulators might see this as a lack of respect for the water quality in the stream.

Would you like to live next to your farm? Do you consider the impact on neighbors or passers-by when you drive equipment on the highway, agitate and spread manure, apply lime on a windy day or operate noisy equipment? Make your own list of activities that might be seen as disrespectful to outsiders.

Are your 24 hour a day workers (the cows) treated with respect? Are cows living in a clean, dry and comfortable environment with adequate quality feed and drinking water? Does your milking equipment and procedure treat your cows with respect or do they dread milking time? In what areas of your farm could the cows receive a little more respect?

Are human workers treated with respect? How are the working conditions, are they convenient, conducive to doing quality work and safe? Is there a clean place to sit and eat lunch or have a cup of coffee or glass of milk? Are all workers treated with respect as important individuals?

On a broader basis you might think about how you respect others who might do things differently, raise different animals, grow different crops or even work in town. Do you try to keep them out of your township, avoid them because they are different or poke fun at them? Getting to know them and seeing what you might learn, even how to make them feel more welcome is a good step toward building respect.

We have all heard the homilies about walking in another's shoes or trying to see ourselves as others see us. As dairy farmers become more and more a minority and have to share the landscape with other types of land uses, both farm and non-farm, we need to run our businesses and treat others with the respect that we would like to receive.

Robert E. Graves
Agricultural and Biological Engineering Extension