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OUR HEALTH & WELFARE
COMMUNICATIONS CHALLENGE
Holstein UK Chief Executive Greg Ward
comments on the public perception of
the Holstein cow and how the society
is addressing the negative press that is
fuelling the debate.
It’s difficult to change people’s perceptions of something once an
opinion is formed. We found this to be true when dealing with
both the producers of a recent television broadcast and those who
vociferously seek to promote their breed above all others.
The fact remains that the Black and White is the breed of choice for
the vast majority of dairy farmers. The important word here is choice.
From experience and with the best available advice and information from around the world they have chosen
to base their systems on the Black and White cow. It is not an accident that this has happened.
It would appear that as an industry dairy farming has not continued to communicate with the consumer in
a manner that ensures they understand where milk comes from and how it is produced. This disconnect has
resulted in consumer programmes, aimed at urban dwellers, being able to send ripples through the industry
through unbalanced reportage. Sadly, the industry often responds to these reports in a tit-for-tat manner,
sparking further opportunity for minority interests to air their views.
Conscious of the fact that any response we would make would be seized upon by others to further promote
their opinion, we decided to wait and hold our counsel. Since the Countryfile programmes we have worked
hard with a range of industry organisations to provide a co-ordinated response to the public’s concerns. These
issues are clearly farming-wide rather than merely a matter for Black and White breeders.
Our response to this challenge is being developed in a steadily building, long term campaign to take the
health and welfare initiative, highlighting the best we have to offer and demonstrating the improvements we
continue to make in the breeding, feeding and welfare of dairy cattle.
Now that the whole issue is out of the immediate ‘non-farming’ headlines, we are taking positive action to
communicate current breed realities, progress and achievements throughout the food and farming industry
from this autumn. Rest assured, these words will be supported by action during next spring and summer in the
form of breed and industry-wide initiatives to demonstrate real, farm-based improvement. Through them we
will be;
• Emphasising the unique values of modern Black and White breeding allied with appropriate
modern feeding and management in ensuring health and welfare as well as productivity across the
industry
• Reinforcing pride and belief in our breed and its future, together with the opportunities that
health and welfare provides for members long committed to balanced breeding
• Showcasing modern milk production across a range of systems and circumstances as widely as
possible to the general public
We need the support of as many members as possible in offering their herds as examples of excellent practice
in breeding, feeding or welfare and in attending and promoting attendance at on-farm events during the
spring and summer. Only by doing this consistently can we begin to change perception into informed opinion.
Should you wish to offer your support please email us; info@holstein-uk.org
THE JOURNAL OCTOBER 2009 5
e5-09 People.indd 3 22/09/2009 16:29:24
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