|Garrett, me, Lad and Jack in the freestall barn|
So why are farmers portrayed as villains if they make money raising animals for food production? Why is being profitable equated with poor animal care and irresponsible environmental stewardship? The perception seems to be if farmers are profitable they must be doing it at the expense of their animals, the environment or the consumer.
The opposite is true. As a dairy producer, my business will be more profitable if my animals are comfortable, healthy and well fed. If my animals are content, they will produce more milk. Since 96% of my income is derived from selling milk, it’s extremely important to me that my cows perform. If I take care of them, they will take care of me.
Dairy farming is not a hobby or a non-profit venture. Sustaining the economic viability of our farm is a necessity. This business must be profitable or it can’t exist. If our farm isn’t financially stable, then we can’t produce milk, employ people, buy products and services, support our community and provide for our family.
The dairy business, like many other businesses, has its economic ups and downs. We depend on many variables to be profitable including the price we are paid for our milk and expenses such as feed, labor, interest rates, fuel, veterinary service, maintenance/repairs, taxes, utilities and custom services. When prioritizing expenses, the comfort, health and well-being of the cows come first. We must be consistent with the quality of feed, fresh water, bedding and care our animals receive.
Some will claim “farmers only care about making a profit”. Our goal is to make money each year so we can maintain, improve and potentially grow our business. The idea that we would sacrifice animal care for financial gain is simply false and doesn’t make sense. We know good management practices lead to healthy, productive land and animals.
We enjoy the work we do and the lifestyle living on a farm affords us. I want to provide the same things for my family that you provide yours; a comfortable home, a college education and a family vacation to name a few. As dairy producers, we work hard and are committed to what we do. We deserve to be profitable without being criticized for it. If we are successful, our family, employees, community and cows will benefit.