We recently moderated a dairy farmer panel discussion where a member of the audience turned the conversation from cowside concerns to family matters. "How do you handle conflict on your family-run farm?" asked the young dairyman. "Keep your problems in the barn and don't bring them to the house," a seasoned dairy farmer quickly quipped back. That is sage advice for all of us to follow in our family businesses.

When a husband and wife, along with their children, tend to the dairy herd, work the land and live under the same roof, day-to-day issues can escalate far beyond those matters the typical family must navigate. And that is where successful family enterprises must draw a line in the sand - do what you can to resolve farm-related issues during the business day, but the precious time we have to learn, love and play as a family must be free of the stress of business enterprises . . . as much as humanly possible. We appreciate that is easier said than done at times, but children are young only once, and both marriages and relationships need just as much nurturing as a newborn calf.

Even though some of us may no longer share the same roof, the same advice extends to multigenerational farm families. Working with extended relatives provides an opportunity to mentor the next generation. However, when heated discussions leave the farm business and enter the family circle, repeated venomous words and behavior can drive away those we love the most.

Family businesses already face an uphill battle with only 30 percent surviving to the second generation, 12 percent to the third, and less than 3 percent to the fourth and beyond. If those odds don't frighten you, potentially alienating those we love the most should be enough to convince us to leave our farm-related troubles in the barn.

This editorial appears on page 498 of the August 10, 2015 issue of Hoard's Dairyman.

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