“It is a difficult word to wrap my arms around, as we all have different definitions,” said dairyman Greg Bethard during a panel discussion at the International Dairy Foods Association’s (IDFA) Dairy Forum. Bethard is a managing partner and CEO for High Plains Ponderosa Dairy in Plains, Kan.
He said he likes to think of their dairy as infinite; they want to make decisions today with the desire to still be in business 50 years from now. “Every aspect of what we do has that in mind,” he stated.
“For me, to be infinite, first and foremost, we have to be profitable,” he continued. “If we don’t make money, we won’t be in business very long, and all the people we employ would no longer have jobs. That is a very serious commitment. I want to continue to provide jobs for all our employees.”
Bethard said caring for their cows is also part of being infinite. “Obviously, the dairy business is all about the cow. If we don’t care for her, we don’t have much of a future,” he noted.
Next, he said they care for their employees. “Our business is a people business,” Bethard stated. “If we can’t attract and keep good people, we don’t have much of a chance.”
He also noted the importance of their community, because their neighbors and the local community provide feed, repair services, and so much more.
Lastly, he emphasized the importance of valuing the land. “We have to care for our land; the land provides the feed for our cattle,” he said. “If we don’t care for the land, we are not going to have a future.”
For Bethard, the land, the community, their employees, the cows, and profitability are all part of being sustainable, now and in the future, along with making changes that reduce their carbon footprint and meet the needs of consumers. “If we don’t do one of those things, we are not going to be an infinite business,” he summarized.