"It" Really Does Roll Down Hill
Contributor
Written by
Carol Hand
July 2012
Contributor
Written by
Carol Hand
July 2012

There once was this story of a very successful dairy farmer by the name of Duke who's farm is located in a California coastal town. While there are much larger dairy farms in the region that tout much larger profits, this dairy farmer prides himself on a business producing and selling a lower volume, yet higher quality of dairy product than his competitors. The unique selection of flavored cheeses and yogurts have made his line of dairy products in high demand at grocers throughout the Northern California region. These cheeses and yogurts may cost more than the products of his competitors, but consumers can taste the quality, and are loyal to the brand.

One thing that makes this dairy farmer so successful is that while his farm management oversees his operations, he spends a great deal of time traveling to the various grocers that order from him, and builds and maintains lucrative business connections by way of his networking efforts. One time he was meeting with a grocer in Berkley to discuss the grocers needs in response to a recent increase in the grocer's orders. The grocer explained that word had spread that his store was carrying this very popular product line, and an affiliated San Francisco store had been requesting to shelve the product line as well. The dairy farmer explained that he was thrilled that there was increasing demand for his products in San Francisco, but to properly serve the San Francisco store, he would need to meet with the store owner, and arrange to deliver the products directly to the store. 

Duke was excited to expand his business, yet at the same time he was concerned that increasing production would somehow decrease the quality of his products, the very thing that made his products in such high demand in the first place. He met with the San Francisco store owner, who made him a highly lucrative offer to supply not one, but 10 other chain stores in the area. After several days of negotiations, Duke committed to the deal that would require him to expand his operations, and risk degrading the quality of his products by introducing new technologies and additional employees necessary to expand.

It took Duke six months of purchasing more dairy cows, and new equipment, hiring more employees, and designing a new process to accommodate the processing, packaging, and delivery of the higher production volume. Duke also knew he couldn't pull off this expansion on his own. He had to focus more than ever on the business side of things and less on farming and operations. Thus he expanded his management crew from 5 to 10 to oversee operations, each with a team of 10 farm hands carrying out the farming, processing, packaging, and delivery duties. The managers were key to his business success because no matter how many grocer contracts he entered into, no matter how good of business relations he had at the present with these grocers, those relations, those profitable contracts would vanish if quality declined or deliveries were delayed. Therefore, he counted on this team of 10 to ensure that all phases of production ran smoothly.

This all sounds logical, and simple means to sweet success, right? Well, I have news for you - cows get sick, machinery breaks down, people mismanage... This business also involves some less than desirable duties that can cleanly be called, "preventative maintenance." However, you will find that these are not so clean jobs. They are down right dirty jobs.

While the production expansion kicked off without a hitch, and revenues were up 30%, one of the dairy farm managers, Jed, noticed that 20 of the dairy cows had a drop in the fat content of the milk they were producing. The milk was watery, and resulted in a less rich tasting cheese product. This was concerning, and Jed decided he better talk to some of the farm hands to see if they were aware of any potential issues that may be causing these 20 cows to produce lower quality milk. Jed first went to Seth, a farm hand responsible for herding the cows back and forth from the pasture to the stables, and from the stables to the milking area. He told Seth, "I've got a problem with 20 cows not producing fatty milk. How are they doing at pasture? Is there any problems with the feed that I should know about?" Seth replied, "There hasn't been any changes to the feed, but I have noticed a group of cows that have been unusually inactive in the pasture." Seth pointed at their stable quarters, and said, "This is where they are stabled, it's kept clean. I don't know, maybe you should call a vet."

Jed looked over the stable quarters, and as he scanned the area outside the stables, he noticed an enormous pile of cow manure, and millions of flies buzzing around it about 50 feet from the stables. He proceeded to dismiss the notion that a vet was needed to evaluate these cows, he already had the problem figured out. With that, he took off in search another farm hand, Clyde. He was responsible for cleaning milking machinery, cleaning the stables, and piling up the manure for the fertilizer truck to pick up.

Clyde had been working for Duke for over three years as a farm hand. This fellow was sharp, he was in college and only two semesters away from completing a bachelors degree in agriculture and farm management. He didn't especially care for doing these messy, smelly jobs, but he just knew if he finished school, and worked hard, someday Duke would make him his right hand man in the business. With his goals in mind, he did his job, no matter how dirty, or seemingly trivial.

Jed, eager to find a quick solution to the cow problem, approached Clyde in Jed's unique style... "Don't you smell that? Can't you see that these 20 cows stabled closest to this pile of shit are getting sick? Why is that pile of shit right there making my cows sick?" Clyde edged back, and took a moment to think how in all his time at the farm, and through all his agriculture and farming classes, he never heard of cows getting sick from the smell of their own crap. He was baffled at how Jed came to this conclusion and why he was so irritated in the first place. He answered Jed, "Well, when we brought in the additional 100 dairy cows, you asked me to clean the stables, and pile the manure right there, and call the fertilizer trucks to come pick it up once a week. The truck will be here on Friday." 

There was no pleasing this man. Jed just became angry at Clyde's response, and told him, "Use your head Clyde, can't you see that the cows are sick now? Why didn't you tell me there was a problem?" Knowing that no good would come of anything he said to reason with Jed, Clyde kept quiet. Desperate to find a solution that wouldn't require him to worry Duke over these cows, he looked around and noticed how the stables were uphill from the pasture. After a few minutes, he looked to Clyde and said, "We've got 100 more cows now, and this isn't going to work. What I want to happen is from now on Seth is to sweep, shovel, and hose down these stables twice a day to keep the area clean and get these cows back in good shape. No longer is the manure pile allowed to be 50 feet from the stables. From now on, I want it at the bottom of the hill down in the pasture. When Seth cleans the stables of cow manure he's going to fling it with his shovel over the ledge,and it will roll down the hill. You're job now is to keep that pile of shit confined to a 200 square foot area only, so the rest of the pasture doesn't get ruined. Start shoveling, the fertilizer truck can pick up down there on Friday." Clyde was in no position to argue, so he picked up his shovel and got to work.

Jed went back to his office, thinking he solved the problem. However, after a few weeks, he noticed that now 40 of the cows were producing watery milk, and on top of that, the milking machine was getting mucked up, and the routine bacterial cultures on the machinery were coming back positive. The problem was not only getting worse, but now the machinery was not up to par. He once again paid a visit to the stables where he found Seth busy flinging cow shit over the ledge, and Clyde at the bottom of the hill making sure what rolled down stayed in the designated 200 square foot pile. Jed noticed that the stables were very clean, and the shit pile was no longer near the stables, so he went back to his office to figure out what to do next. At this point, he decided he better consult with the owner on the issues.

Jed sat down and explained to Duke what had occurred with the sick cows, and the failing machinery. As Jed spoke, Duke's face grew more and more concerned. He immediately asked Jed, "Why didn't you tell me sooner? Why didn't you call the vet? Why are the milking machine's cultures positive? We've never had a culture come back positive. Clyde usually sanitizes those machines daily, what's going on?" Hanging his head down, Jed explained, "Well, I thought the proximity of the manure pile to the stables was making these cows sick, so I told Seth to start cleaning the stables twice a day, and to fling the manure into the pasture instead of the pile where we used to keep it. Clyde's been busy keeping the manure pile from taking over the pasture, shoveling it as it rolls down the hill into a 200 square foot area... so I guess no one has been cleaning the equipment."

Duke was very dissatisfied with this, and told him to call a vet, forget about the pile of shit, and get Clyde back in the production area to clean the machinery. He then lectured him about his poor choices and sent him off to take steps to get the farm back in working order.

Jed was infuriated as he thought to himself, "What is Duke's problem, it's not my damn fault! How am I supposed to think straight with that massive pile of smelly cow shit 50 feet away. Hell, those farm hands are well trained, they should have known better... That shit shoveling one, and his big college educated brain... Those damn, no good, shit shovelers should gave me other possible solutions to this situation. They are closest to the cows, they ought to know what the hell is bothering them."

...so there he went, charging into the stables, "Seth, why didn't you call the vet?" Seth stopped his sweeping for a minute, and with his head cocked to the side said, "You told me to shovel this here shit down the hill to Clyde." Jed stood stiff as a board, and looking like a loose cannon ready to blow, "Well, go call the vet. You should have done that in the first place! You're responsible for these cows you know." Jed stomped over to the ledge where Clyde was working below. He looked at Clyde, thinking about what a puck-ass college kid he was... Figuring Clyde must have known that he should have called the vet. He yelled down the hill, "Clyde, what the hell are you doing? The milking machine cultures are positive for bacteria. I got in trouble for it from Duke, but it's all your fault!!!" He stormed off, trailing, "Get up here and clean the machinery!"

Clyde was totally appalled that he was doing what he was ordered to do, yet his manager had the nerve to very directly, in no ambiguous way, blame him for his manager's mistake. Clyde had been shoveling shit, as ordered, and yet Jed had the nerve to straight up say, "I got in trouble from the big boss, and it's all your fault." Clyde was just trying to do his job, and make his way through college, and to be honest, he was getting really sick of people such as this shifting blame in such an unprofessional and inappropriate manner. However, he didn't want to make any waves with the owner and ruin his own potential to advance  in the business. Therefore, he sucked it up, and went to clean the machinery.

After some time, Jed cooled off, and went to Clyde and complimented him on how clean the machinery now was, and as a result the cultures were negative and the machinery was safe to use. He also made a point to... well... not exactly apologize for how inappropriate he was to blame his getting in trouble on Clyde, but casually said he was just joking, and was blowing off steam when he said it. Clyde was feeling drained by his manager, Jed's, up and downs, but knew it was better to be chill and keep the peace for the next few weeks until he rotated to packaging duties. Once this warm, and not so fuzzy awkward moment was over, Jed instructed Clyde to go back to his shit shoveling duties at the bottom of the hill.

Off Clyde went with his shovel, back to the bottom of the hill. He did so dutifully, while dreaming of better career days ahead. Through the sick cow, shit shoveling, lack of vet calling, mishap he learned a valuable lesson that he never would have learned at college - Shit really does roll down hill if you let it. The result is that it stinks up those shovelers trying to do what's right while respecting the hierarchy of shit flingers that can stifle future career opportunities if you don't shovel the shit your told to shovel.   

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