May 15 2012 12:01 AM

Industry terms can confuse others if delivered in "farm talk"

two Guernseys on pastureThe jargon in our industry can overwhelm the ordinary urbanite. The words we choose when talking to our dairy neighbor at the feed mill are different than the vocabulary used to talk to the teacher at your child's school. It can be hard to switch between the two languages when one comes so naturally.
Vocabulary overheard on a dairy could include hot cows, DHI tester, and drenching. If a seven-year old student overheard those words, what runs through their mind? While there is nothing wrong with using jargon, misinterpretation can occur by those unfamiliar with our terms. A cow sweating, a mechanical device, and a face full of water could be what a child or their parent envisions with those words, rather than a cow's reproductive status, a person, and a form of treatment.

As June is Dairy Month arrives, think through the wording you use to describe your daily activities on the farm. What words do children use that work on the farm?

Here are two samples to consider.

Sick animals get drugs… Try this instead: Sometimes it's necessary for farmers to treat cows with medicine when they are ill. Avoid charged words like sick and drugs. It helps your message to be better received. Once those hot topic words are used, the rest of the message is put on mute and you have reinforced sick, drugs, and dairy into one package. That makes it harder to bring them back to your positive message of "dairy farmers provide safe, healthy, and nutritious milk."

We use "bugs" to describe lots of things on the dairy such as rumen culture, insects, and pathogens. It is important to carefully choose your terms depending on your audience. An example might be "Milk is pasteurized to kill bad bugs." A better alternative could be Milk is pasteurized which means it is heated to kill potentially harmful bacteria."Bugs" to consumers might be spiders, and spiders in milk is not a vision we want in a consumer's mind. And while some hair might rise on the back of your neck with the use of "bacteria," this response has been consumer-tested and approved by Dairy Management Inc.'s team.

While you may chuckle at this word-smithing, unfortunately adults and teenagers who should know better, make similar poor word choices. It takes practice to convey a positive message with terms that everyone can understand. Choose your words carefully, as they will be shared many times over. We want the right message being spread to the public.

Dairy Management Inc.'s "Telling YOUR Story" flipbook contains similar consumer-tested key messages. These messages have been delivered to consumers and evaluated for their understanding and acceptance of the vocabulary. More information can be found at The flipbook was mentioned on the Young Dairymen page in our April 25, 2012 issue of Hoard's Dairyman which discussed connecting with consumers at the fair.

Get ready to share your dairy messages next month when we celebrate Dairy Month and throughout the summer at fairs and events.