Dairy damage control
Corby Werth considers being a spokesman for the Michigan Dairy News Bureau an honor. So when a reporter called from the Northern Express in the Traverse City area, he was ready to set the record straight.
The reporter had “a definite direction she wanted to go in regards to confined animal feeding operations,” Werth says. “She really didn’t have a clue about the dairy business, but yet wanted to portray CAFOs in a bad light — trying to pit small farm operations against larger ones.”
I stressed that in the dairy industry, everyone is a dairy farmer regardless of size, and we all want to do what is best for our animals and the environment.”
• Corby Werth and Jerry Neyer help set reporter straight on CAFO facts.
• Michigan Dairy News Bureau spokespeople spread a positive message about dairy.
• To help educate the public, Werth hosts tours on his farm for area students.
Werth, who is on the board of directors for United Dairy Industry of Michigan, is a fourth-generation farmer in partnership with his dad and brother. The farm evolved from 30 cows in tiestalls and controlled grazing to 180 milking cows in a freestall with a parlor. Since the Werths live in Alpena, considered a “hot zone” for bovine tuberculosis, they no longer graze animals.
“That makes us a small CAFO,” Werth says. “I invited and urged [the reporter] to come to the farm, but she declined.”
The reporter also spoke with Jerry Neyer in Mount Pleasant, who is an MDNB spokesman, too. He runs two dairy sites with brother Bryan, father Dave and uncle Bill. They milk 1,100 cows and raise replacement heifers for a total of 2,500 head.
“Between the two of them, they were able to correct a lot of misinformation before it went to press,” says Staci Garcia, industry and public communications director with UDIM.
“Corby actually got to read the article before press, which is pretty unheard of,” she says. The reporter had originally lifted information posted on the Web by activist groups. “In the end, she printed a much more balanced article.”
Werth is also proactive in telling his dairy story throughout his small town of Alpena. “This is a very rural area, but there are many who have no idea about the workings of a dairy farm,” he says.
Werth hosts tours on his farm two or three times a year for schools, including tours for disabled students. He has also served on a panel, allowing Michigan State University vet students to ask questions. “We provided information about what goes on at a large-animal farm; it isn’t always what you read in the paper,” he says.
Telling dairy’s story, Werth says, is important. “Sitting back and doing nothing is the easiest thing to do, but ultimately it will hurt our industry.”
This article published in the February, 2011 edition of MICHIGAN FARMER.