Labor and the Contented Cow
In 1907, Carnation milk coined the phrase “Milk from Contented Cows”. The slogan was used to promote condensed milk products originally produced in the Pacific Northwest. When the slogan was introduced it was supposed to show the consumer that the milk was coming from superior, well cared for cows, which were taken care of by caring farmers.
Over 115 years later the relevance of the phrase “Milk from Contented Cows” still exists today. The consumer still wants to know that the cows that produce their milk are well taken care of by diligent workers. But the phrase speaks to me on a deeper level; over a century ago farmers already knew that contented cows make quality milk. Of course we know that content cows are sparked from an extremely detailed management plan, from crops, to nutrition, stall design, heat abatement, and well trained workers…the list could go on and on.
As I travel to different farms, I realize that everyone has the same goal in mind. Farmers today still search to create “the contented cow”, because just as they knew 115 years ago they know today that content cows make more milk. The massive difference between then and now, aside from all the advancements we have made in health, feed, and facilities, is labor.
A hundred years ago, the owner milked his own cows; likely touched every single one daily, and the labor was family. On our farms we likely have immigrant labor, people from all walks of life, experiences, and upbringing. But remember the goal is still the same; foster an environment for content cows. How do we help our labor understand our goal? I have observed and used many different strategies to train labor or to get them to understand our goals on farm. Training and communication is the most important part of your labor on farm, and there are a few factors in training to make it “stick”.
- Keep it short and sweet (avoid long power points or talks, trust me you’re losing attention after 30 minutes)
- Keep your training dynamic (use a combination of classroom, and cow-side or tractor-side, hands on trainings)
- Use real world examples (from your experience or others)
- Show grace and humility (no one wants to learn when they feel they’re being judged)
- Speak the language (literally, make sure we are training in a language they understand)
- Allow opportunity for sharing (let them disagree or give examples of what they have tried and their opinions)
- Bring in different people (use your outside resources to come in and train)
- Acknowledgement (make sure to recognize and appreciate a job well done)
Ultimately your labor is a major factor in your goal of having “The Contented Cow”. Much has changed in a century, but our cows will always remain the number one priority.