I want to talk a little bit about communication.
One thing I have noticed being a veterinarian in a mixed animal practice is that we don’t talk to all our clients in the same way. We talk about the same things, but we use different words. And I don’t talk to my family and friends the same way I talk to my clients. I suppose this is normal, you wouldn’t talk to your boss the same way you talk to your kids, but you probably aren’t talking about the same thing.
I was a little bit surprised to realize this. We talk about things like nutrition, diet, water, bathroom habits, and quality of life with cat and dog owners and with livestock owners, but we don’t use the same words. And sometimes the pet owners don’t understand what we’re talking about with the farmers. I’m a pet owner and a farmer. And sometimes it’s easy for me to forget who I’m talking to.
Don’t get mad – it’s not your fault that you don’t know what we’re talking about. It’s our fault – the vets, the ones with all the education. We don’t translate well. Farmers and pet owners are working in two different worlds. Although no one likes to talk about it, farming is a full-time job. And just like you look for ways to save money in your business and in your home, farmers are looking for ways to save money in theirs, too.
So we talk to farmers about things like production. Using this word makes us sound like we work in a factory, where the only goal is to have a bunch of product to sell at the end of the day. Well, we are looking to have some product to sell (otherwise there would not be any hamburgers for dinner tonight). But we also want to have happy, healthy animals while we’re doing that.
When we talk about production, we’re talking about how much the animals are growing, how much milk they are producing, how much muscle they are building, or how many eggs they are laying. All of this (and more!) can be changed by making sure we are paying attention to things like the animals’ food quality and amounts, water quality, and environment. No farmer wants to skimp on food bills – that means they’ll have skinny cows who are not making milk, beef calves who aren’t growing, or calcium-deficient chickens who are not laying eggs.
Just like you don’t want to buy the cheapest food for your dog, or his hair coat will be dull and rough, and he might have diarrhea. (Yuck. No one likes that.) At the same time, you don’t always go out and buy the most expensive dog food, when the one priced in the middle will work just as well. And you ask your veterinarian for a recommendation on which brand of food to buy.
Farmers are asking the same questions that pet owners are asking. We all want the best things for our animals. We just use different words to get to the same point.
Do you think farmers are just “factory managers?” What made you think that?