I recently attended a day-long workshop focused on technology and innovation for the dairy industry. Spending a day with Kiwis was a fun experience. From their dialect to their discussions on agriculture, I realized that agriculture producers could share a bond that transcends continents, if they are willing to see what they have in common and appreciate their differences.
In the morning, we set out to visit a farm north of Kansas City that was using a New Zealand company fencing system. On the bus ride, I sat next to a businessman from New Zealand. He asked where I was from and I told him the far eastern side of the state. I explained how nice it was to travel west and find gas prices declining. In my hometown, gas prices were $3.67 per gallon. Despite my gas tank being only half-full, I decided to wait until an hour down the road. Sure enough, I filled up for $3.29 per gallon. The man laughed. I thought it was because of the gas price drop in such a short distance. Then he said, "You're gas prices are perfect. When I left New Zealand ours were $6.37 per gallon."
I guess it is all a matter of perspective, both theirs and ours. The man, who dealt in animal pharmaceuticals, also explained how the U.S. is different in the treatment of animals. "Companion pets you have are treated very well here," he said. "Of course you are a well off society." I laughed. It is true. When individuals start taking life insurance, dental insurance and medical insurance on dogs and cats, other countries may wonder about our priorities. Or, they may just see an opportunity come over and invest.
However, it was not the differences that forged a common bond, it was the similarities. Kiwi farmers, like American farmers, are looking for ways to do more with less. As they sat across the lunch table, farmers exchanged their management practices with each other. Both U.S. and New Zealand farmers are looking for ways to become more efficient. They discussed forage management practices, fencing systems and animal identification.
New Zealand companies continue to look for new opportunities to expand their business in Missouri. Companies like Z Tags and Huslter Equipment are all operating in the U.S. The Livestock Improvement Corporation offers dairy producers with genetics for improving the pasture based dairy system here in the U.S.
The workshop offered producers an opportunity to hear first-hand from these companies and see their products in action. As business cards were exchanged, there was a sense of community rather than competition. Finding the right product to improve a farmer's bottom line appears to transcend borders.