Depending on how you look at it, the U.S. dairy industry is large and growing, or small and shrinking. You’d be correct in both cases.
On the “large” side, U.S. milk production will likely top 200 billion lbs. again in 2014, and annual U.S. dairy exports could be close to $6 billion for a second consecutive year. Collectively, that’s big business, with huge upside potential.
On the “small” side, you could give a Green Bay Packer ticket to one employee of every U.S. dairy farm commercially licensed to sell milk and each commercial dairy processing plant in the country, and still not fill two-thirds of Lambeau Field. We’re a relatively small community, steeped in rural values and ethics.
Some of you may recognize my mugshot and name from somewhere else, because when we move within our small community, we don’t lose our identity. What may change, however, is our own perspective.
So, even though I’m still a dairy magazine editor, I’m in a new place, with a different view. Undoubtedly, Dairy Herd Management will bring new perspectives to my job, just as I will bring new perspectives to Dairy Herd Management.
In some cases, those perspectives will reveal themselves quickly; others over time. One of the pieces of advice people have given me over the years during any transition is this: “For the first (suggested length of time), don’t move the furniture, just dust.” In other words, don’t rush in and make major changes until you understand the culture and processes already in place.
I think changing perspectives is a good thing, to gain a different view of things. According to folklore, even the lowly groundhog is afraid of his own shadow.
So this year, as I change, I challenge you to change your own perspectives — even if you change nothing else.
Look at every job on your dairy from an employees’ perspective; look at your lifestyle from the perspective of your spouse or family; look at your milk quality from the perspective of your milk buyer; look at your business ledger from the perspective of your banker; and look at what you do and how you do it from the perspective of the consumer. (At the same time, hope they all do the reverse to gain a better understanding of you.)
When it comes to a dairy/business management communications company, I have a couple simple things that guide my editorial decisions.
• The articles should contain a “teachable moment” — something most readers can learn from.
• The articles should have an “actionable item” — something readers can incorporate into their own business if they so choose.
Hopefully, I can provide other things that will be entertaining or add value to your time, but for the most part articles must fill the two criteria above.
• A final overriding belief of mine is that we learn best from each other. It doesn’t take long at World Dairy Expo or any local, state, regional, national or international event to realize “dairy” is a business based on relationships. Unfortunately, with all the infighting over policy issues, I think we’ve lost sight of that somewhat in recent times. However, the growth and hunger for social media – even within dairy – seems to show those relationships are missed.
The dairy industry is about people and relationships. The dairy industry is about us, with all our various perspectives.
We could all do worse than to change them once in a while. Going forward, I hope you’ll share yours with me.
Dave Natzke is editor of Dairy Herd Management. To contact him, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.