The Domino Effect and Rewarding Good Behavior

I talk to a lot of teenagers, that is A LOT of teenagers.  I’ve found one truth to be universal, they respond to positive feedback, a kind word, a compliment, or a text telling them when you notice them stepping up, and that it was appreciated. Far too often we as adults use a “stern talking to” as our first line of discipline, but don’t reward good behavior.

Getting recognized for doing the right thing is a great motivator.

Last week, Domino’s Pizza voted down a resolution brought forward at their shareholders meeting considering a change in animal welfare. The reason they voted the resolution down? They want to consult those who study animal behavior and experts in animal husbandry practices, so that they are really doing what is the best for animals. Actually talk to the folks that care for animals and to the experts that are writing the standards. I know that not everyone is going to agree on what those standards should be, but Domino’s is going to talk to them. They don’t want to compromise animal care for the sake of perception.

In a recent post  on Just Farmers a Missouri hog farmer, Chris Chinn, put forth the idea that we in agriculture reward companies like Dominoes for doing the right thing.

I’m in!  Voting down these resolutions are actually quite common and we in agriculture need to make sure that we start showing appreciation to those companies that are willing to take some time to look into situations before jumping on a sensationalism bandwagon. I am not supporting the idea that this is farmers and a restaurants against groups like HSUS and PETA who are constantly badgering companies to make changes with shareholder resolutions.  Instead I am simply Saying thanks to Domino’s for turning to the experts first. If they do this and have reasonable evidence to move forward in a similar manner as HSUS proposed I will be fully satisfied as the matter was fully investigated first.

So next weekend I’m going to pick up a couple pizzas and leave a note for the management of Domino’s. I’d encourage all of you to do the same.

Join me and share this event through Facebook!

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Too Much Technology?

Growing up, I was fascinated by my dads hands. They were huge. A game we played as kids involved dropping a quarter through his wedding ring. I think dad wore a size 15 ring. Hands formed by milking cows by hand. Sometime in the 60’s they switched to a vacuum pump and bucket milkers. The time spent with each animal went down as the technology increased.

A recent run of events brought this topic to mind for me. But the topic, is one that we seem to running into headfirst.

If we make use of technology in caring for animals, does this diminish their quality of life?

The most recent catalyst for this discussion was a post that highlighted the Lely robotic milkers. Someone I respect a great deal, suggested that this would remove the basic tenets of animal husbandry. This also seems to be the charge leveled against any of today’s large farms.

Can any farm with hundreds to thousands of animals really take care of them?

What constitutes care?

This same friend offered that animals make our lives richer, and that we enrich their lives. I can’t argue that point, but does an animal need daily interaction with me to be fulfilled?

Is there a different level of interaction that each species would require? And lastly who gets to decide what that level is?

If some of the basic jobs can be done by others/machines, does that diminish what happens on the farm?

When I was growing up, one of the jobs I got, was cleaning the calf barn. With a pitchfork. You know, the manually operated kind. It took a couple of hours each week. Character building kind of work. Within two months of my taking an off the farm job, that barn was being cleaned with a skid loader. They replaced labor with capital. The trend continues today.

Today’s farmers are faced with the same issues that people everywhere face.Pay the mortgage, raise a family, and try to improve their quality of life. Growing up on a 40 cow dairy, we rarely took vacations. A week away from the farm was almost unheard of. If an opportunity came up for a day away, it could work, as long as it fit between morning and evening chores. Relief milkers were difficult to come by at best, and impossible to find at worst. The expansion of the dairy allowed for more hired help, more available labor, and more flexibility in time off.

But has animal care gone down? I’d argue that it has gotten better. The barn of yesteryear were dark dank old caves that lacked much of what we now know contributes greatly to animal welfare. People see animals in barns when on their summer vacations and wish they were out running in the pastures and meadows, but when they get out of their cars they head for the air-conditioned comfort of the motel. Today’s barns offer shade, and a great deal of animal comfort. Are they perfect? No, but producers are always on the lookout for cost effective ways to take better care of their animals.

Do farms today look like an updated version of Olde McDonald’s Farm? Nope, and most likely never will again. The robotic milkers from Lely aren’t for everyone, but may have their place. Does that automatically make us evil? Nope, it doesn’t. Although I have watched i-Robot, and they might be. 😉