A challenge faced by today’s dairy farmer is maintaining a positive image with the public. Most of us probably assume the worst when we speculate what consumers believe about farms. When we take the time to ask, though, what the public really has to say about dairy farms may surprise you.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) wanted to get a better idea of what the general population considered to be the “ideal dairy farm.” Through an online survey, they asked 468 Americans this question: What do you consider to be an ideal dairy farm, and why are these characteristics important to you?

As shared in a report recently released by UBC, the theme that surfaced most often was cow care. Many respondents mentioned humane treatment as a priority. Words that came up often in regard to cow care included “respect,” “fairly,” “kindly,” “with love,” and “with dignity.”

As one might expect, there were some comments suggesting that farms be small or organic. Some respondents indicated that farms should be operated by “family farmers,” and others said farmers should be committed to their community by offering tours, selling products locally, and so forth.

Respondents did recognize the business side of dairying. They noted that the ideal farm should be profitable, productive, and efficient. They answered that a farmer should be efficient, educated, competent, and loving.

Those surveyed indicated a desire for a high-quality product and one that was clean and safe. The general consensus was that they did not like the use of hormones, antibiotics, or other chemicals for the purpose of increasing production. They did feel that sick animals should be treated, recognizing that quality of life influences the quality of milk produced, which in turn influences human health.

The general public may not understand a lot about farming. Still, the fact that survey respondents were able to make the connection between healthy animals and a high-quality product is something that should give dairy producers a little more confidence in their consumers.

To learn more, read the full report, “Public expectations of a dairy farm.”

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2017
February 6, 2017

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