A new effort shows consumers real life on a dairy.
Ohio veterinarian Mark Hardesty takes a deep breath, looks into the camera and calmly explains why dairy producers need to dehorn their calves.
“Horned cattle are more aggressive to each other and their owners,” he says. “I’ve seen cattle that were torn up [by other calves’ horns], with holes in their side, and people, myself included, have been attacked by horned cattle.…We take the horns off, and they are calmer.” He then anesthetizes a calf’s horn buds with a syringe and applies an electric dehorner to the right horn.
The three-minute video, along with a dozen others, is available at the Ohio Dairy Farmers Web site. The entire effort attempts to lay bare life on real dairy farms. It shows consumers and schoolkids that cattle are well cared for and the reasons why management practices such as dehorning, hoof trimming and calf care are done.
“We were concerned that the story of our state dairy farmers was not being told clearly or concisely, and that activists were telling our story for us,” explains Scott Higgins, CEO of the American Dairy Association Mideast (ADA Mideast), based in Columbus, Ohio.
“Many of our dairies have biosecurity, no-admittance signs at the entrance to their farms, and this was being misunderstood by consumers,” Higgins says.
In addition to the videos, the site includes pages on 12 Ohio dairies, ranging in size from the 110-cow, single-family Ackley dairy to one of the state’s largest operations, Dan Andreas’ 2,500-cow, 35-employee facility.
Most of the profiles include videos shot on the dairies. None of the videos were scripted. Ohio dairy promotion folks simply sent a camera crew to each farm to spend several hours filming. Participating producers were encouraged to tell their family’s story.
“Each of the families we approached was willing and excited to do the project,” Higgins says, “even though they fully realized they could end up with targets on their backs.”
The site includes a kids page, with a fact sheet, puzzles and pictures to color, and a host of educational resources for teachers.
The project was started in 2009, well before the Humane Society of the United States released the
alleged animal abuse videos taken at Conklin Dairy Farms near Plain City, Ohio, this past June.
ADA Mideast has invested more than $650,000 in the Web site project in the last two years.
About $60,000 was spent on Web site and video development. The bulk of the spending was for TV and online advertising during June, which is Dairy Month, and back-to-school time.
Consumer reaction has been very positive. “The site attracts more than 1,600 visitors each month, with 83% of those being first-time visitors,” Higgins says. “The campaign also has a complementary Facebook page which is ‘liked’ by more than 4,500 people, who have more than 800,000 Facebook friends!”