June 18 2019 03:45 PM

We must be part of the conversation on animal care.

There are a lot of terrible things being said about the dairy industry right now, and it isn’t going to stop. It hurts my heart knowing there are people out there who think dairy farmers mistreat and don’t take care of their animals.

I have read many comments on social media that are horrific. There is a big problem with this. We have two things that are working against us: 1) the lack of information available to the public and 2) animal rights activist who (unlike most dairy farmers) have the money and time to move their agenda (abolishing animal agriculture) forward.

I can sit here all day and tell you about how I think the coverage people are viewing on social media is all about deception, and how I think these animal rights organizations get hired hands onto farms and pay them to make our farms look bad.

But I want to focus on moving forward in the right direction. I have seen farmers on Facebook fighting back and being downright ugly to the people who believe we are mistreating our animals. It makes me mad too, don’t get me wrong. But what good does being ugly back do? What good does a “fight night” in the comments section on Facebook do?

Farmers are passionate caretakers of their land and animals. So, when someone slanders us, we want to lash out. It’s instinct. We cannot and should not do that. Instead, we need to be friendly. I don’t know if you have ever tried, but it is really hard being mean to someone who is being nice to you. We have got to remember the MAJOR problem here is lack of knowledge. Make friends and tell them to come out and take a tour. Explain how we are some of the best caretakers. Let them take a peek into a farmer’s life.

The majority of people today do not know what a farm looks like. They have never stepped foot on one. So, if they haven’t seen one, and they view terrible footage on social media, of course they are going to be horrified and believe we don’t take care of our animals.

We need to take the time to talk with the public. We see videos going viral of things that are not what our farms are about. Let’s start making videos go viral about the truth of what happens on our farms. Do some tours, or go talk to classes at a local school. Make connections with your local FFA, Cattlemen’s Association, or Farm Bureau and see how you can help educate the community.

If you want the truth to be known about how you care for your cows, take a step forward and be an advocate to your community or your network of friends. We have people out there doing major work to denounce our farms. Going after the things we have poured our hearts and souls into. There’s only one thing we can do, we have got to put in the leg work to promote as much or more than they try to demote. It is time to step up and be “undeniably dairy.”

Caitlin and Mark Rodgers

Mark and Caitlin Rodgers are dairy farmers in Dearing, Georgia. Their “Father and Daughter Dairy Together” column appears every other Thursday on HD Notebook. The Rodgers have a 400-cow dairy that averages 32,000 pounds of milk. Follow their family farm on Facebook at Hillcrest Farms Inc.