DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle says dairy farming’s reputation with the public matters.
“The media and public scrutiny resulting from the release of the bobby calf welfare video footage last year was a stark reminder of that. The continuing focus on our environmental and employment performance also shows that the spotlight is always on us,” says Tim.
“Our standing with New Zealanders and our markets can affect our ability to operate profitably and successfully. We have to invest in our reputation as we would in any other asset that underpins our competitiveness.
“DairyNZ does that on farmers’ behalf – but we don’t do it alone. Our strength lies in being able to amplify the voice of farmers and the industry, by bringing them together.”
Tim was immensely proud of how dairy farmers stood up to be counted and heard, particularly through social media, over the bobby calf welfare issue.
“Farmers showed how much they cared and New Zealand heard us – and supported our industry and our farmers. It was a huge effort. I pay tribute to everyone involved, but particularly Andrew Hoggard, the dairy chair for Federated Farmers, who did a great job with the media to balance and inform that debate.”
Andrew says it’s important the industry takes a team approach on reputational issues.
“That’s why I joined Tim to take on the lion’s share of the media attention,” he says. “I also say well done to all those farmers who shared their stories on social media. Their positive action helped,” says Andrew.
“The farmer voice was powerful and authentic, making a big impact in gaining public support.”
Other examples of joint action, such as the Workplace Action Plan and the Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord, are paying off too.
“By working well together, we are building and maintaining our trust with the public and consumers. That’s what will keep our reputation strong – actions and results that show we are doing all we can to farm responsibly,” says Andrew.
Harnessing the power of social media
Farmers united on social media and were proactive in sharing their side of the story following the release of video footage last year about the treatment of bobby calves in New Zealand.
Facebook pages dedicated to showing how farmers care for their animals were set-up immediately, with one rapidly growing to over 8000 members. Photos, videos and stories were shared continuously on social media, with many going viral and screening on television.
- Facebook page ‘Proud to be NZ farmers’: 2500 people have joined.
- DairyNZ Facebook page (the first week after the issue broke):
- 208 new likes; 732 page visits; 7391 people engaged with the page (clicks, likes, comments or shares).
- The week’s total reach was 93,453 people – an increase of 89,210 compared to the previous week (4243).
- Trade Me community: 2476 comments on the bobby calf issue (that week).
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy February 2016