Sept. 6 2017 02:17 PM

As dairy farmers, we must not only know how to solve problems, but we must also know why.

There was once an experiment that consisted of five monkeys, one banana, and a ladder. A banana was placed at the top of a tall ladder in the middle of a room. The scientists then placed five monkeys in the room with the ladder and the banana.

The first monkey noticed the banana and went racing up the ladder to retrieve it but as soon as he grabbed it, all the monkeys at the bottom received an electric shock. One by one each monkey went up the ladder and each time all the monkeys at the bottom of the ladder got shocked. The monkeys came to the conclusion that going up the ladder was a really bad idea and nobody climbed the ladder again.

Then the scientists removed one of the monkeys and replaced it with a new monkey. Immediately the monkey went racing up the ladder but before he could reach the top, all four of the other monkeys jumped on him and told him that he should never climb the ladder.

The next day another monkey was replaced. The new monkey raced up the ladder only to have the other four monkeys scold him for climbing the ladder before he could reach the top. One by one each of the original monkeys were replaced and each time a new monkey was introduced the four other monkeys would stop him from climbing the ladder.

When the last original monkey was replaced by a new monkey, the new monkey did the same thing. He went racing up the ladder only to be stopped by the other four monkeys. But when they stopped him he turned around and asked, “Why did you stop me?” The other monkeys replied, “I don’t know, we just don’t do that,” even though none of them had ever been shocked.

This was a story my grandfather told me many years ago but the moral of the story is timeless. He said a monkey knows how to do a lot of things but it needs to learn why it does them. It is not enough for us in the dairy industry to know how to accomplish a task. We need to know why we do it.

When a cow has pneumonia, do you use penicillin, Polyflex, or Excenel? Did you know one is better at fighting pneumonia than the others? What about mastitis? Do you know which tube to use based on the disease? Or how about down cows? Do you really know why she can’t get up or do you only know how to “handle” the situation?

A monkey can learn the how, but only the best make it a point to learn the why. Which monkey are you going to be?

Tyler Ribeiro

Tyler Ribeiro is a fourth-generation dairy farmer born and raised in California. He is currently a partner with his father at Rib-Arrow Dairy in Tulare where they proudly ship their milk to Land O’Lakes. Tyler is actively involved in the dairy industry, holding leadership roles in various organizations locally and across the United States.

Join us next week

Bill Stone
The webinar “Management approaches to minimize nutrition-related health and production issues” will be held on Monday, September 11, at noon (Central time).

Cow health and productivity can suffer based on the performance of a dairy nutrition program being compromised. Managers can enhance production and improve cow well-being by implementing nutritional protocols. Join us as Diamond V’s Bill Stone presents the webinar. The September webinar is sponsored by Kuhn. Register at