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Thinking backwards – are we suffocating ourselves?


One night last week we had a Breech calving  here at the dairy, a Breech birth is when the calf is coming backwards or rear legs first.  These calvings are extremely difficult because  the last part of the calf to be exposed is the head. A normal birth is front feet and head first presentation because it is naturally somewhat more aerodynamic and the calf can start breathing sooner.  This situation has to be dealt with as an emergency and immediate attention and assistance is given so the calf does not suffocate.

As I was finishing the calving it hit me that the situation mimicked life a bit, in that if we are backwards in our thinking sometimes we can’t see the light and will suffocate. Sadly I see this thinking more and more everyday. For example overburdening regulations that actually makes doing the right thing more expensive than neccessary it threatens the sustainability of an industry. Here in the California Central Valley we have regulations from the Central Valley Water Resources Control Board that can actually make doing the right thing downright unsustainable for business survival.  As time has gone by and common sense been added to the water environmental regulations they have been much easier to work with. Farmers are all about doing the right thing we just want a common sense economically feasible way to do it.

Backwards thinking can also be seen in knee jerk reaction to one high profile incident just to create that warm fuzzy feeling that something was done, only to end up making the problem many times worse.  Another example of thinking backwards is the thought that something should always be done one way because that is how it has always been done, and refusing to see the opportunity for innovation by looking for more options.

By thinking backwards we can almost guarantee ourselves that we will never move forward and stretch our boundaries to see what lies beyond them.

If you are wondering how the calving ended up through teamwork my father and I were able to help a calf be born alive.

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Does a major news outlet have more half truths than Pinocchio?


As some people may know I was appointed last year to National Dairy Board by the Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. I was excited to help direct the programs dairy farmers fund from their own income, approximately 1.75 cents per gallon with 2/3 staying local & 1/3 going to the NDB. Afterall, my family farm has been contributing to the fund based on the milk products we have produced for close to two decades.

What I did not realize going in was the great dairy farmers I would meet along the way from all corners of the US, between the National, and State or Regional boards there are over 400 dedicated farmers giving their time to direct the programs all the dairy farmers fund.

I see first-hand how much mind-blowing research is done through the funds farmers like me put into the dairy board budget. There is research on the nutritional qualities of dairy products, packaging that allows milk to store better and be easier to take on the go and the amount of time spent on promotional programs like Fuel up to Play 60 a great partnership with the NFL to get kids active.

What I do not understand is why there is even a question about farmers promoting the products they grow and raise today their are numerous organizations that are self funded “Checkoffs” or marketing boards in the US. As stated in the popular Year of Plenty blog  “… I’m not sure why it’s controversial that dairy farmers are paying for programs to promote the sale of their products. It’s like saying it’s scandalous that Starbucks wants consumers to drink more coffee.” Another great post from Year of Plenty is titled  How My Little Blog Out-Reported the New York Times and adresses a lot of the misinformation and half truths.

With the inaccuracies reported by major news outlets, several dairy farmers across the US are voicing their sentiments in their own blog posts or in conversations with local media. Here are a few great posts from some fellow dairy farmers:

Here is a great blog that is written by some of the great employees behind the the National dairy Council and Dairy Management Inc.:

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