In Praise of the Cold

I’d like to offer a disclaimer that what I’m about to say is not necessarily a popular sentiment among those in the middle of a plains winter.  In fact, I’m certain it isn’t.  All the same, I’m going to come right out and say it anyway.  Here it goes…

I’m glad it’s freezing. 

Before you raise a snowball and aim it at my head, hear me out.  As uncomfortable as sub-zero temperatures and blowing snow might feel, I take them as a sign (even if it’s a small one) that Mother Nature has her seasons in order.  Following last summer’s drought, everyone has been forced to spend more time thinking about the weather and its broad-reaching effects.  From produce in the grocery store, to food for our pets, we’ve all felt the effects of a lack of moisture. 

It’s impossible to predict exactly what the future holds when it comes to weather.  The drought could very well continue into 2013.  Most hot/dry spells in the past have lasted 2+ years.  If that’s happens, it’s something we will all have to be ready to deal with.  For now, though, I’m not afraid to say I’m thankful for the cold. 

Even if it means I have to dodge a snowball or two.   

Milestone

At Oxbow, we have always taken special pride in going the extra mile to have a conversation with our customers.  In general, we believe that more is more when it comes to communication.  Each day, this conversation takes many forms: phone calls, letters, emails, conferences, face to face meetings at trade shows, visits to stores, etc.  We try to embrace the countless opportunities for communication every day.

A few short years ago, we decided to take the social media plunge and create an Oxbow Facebook page.  Entering the Facebook community seemed like a natural extension of the conversation that takes place in many other forms.  Since that time, we have really come to value our Facebook page.  At its heart, it’s a forum for sharing – sharing stories, questions, photos, comments, product feedback, and more.  For some customers, it’s a quick, convenient way for them to communicate their comments, questions, or concerns with us.  For others, it’s a place to stop by occasionally to check news and see what other pet owners have been up to.  Whatever a person’s reason for coming to our Facebook page, we’re glad to have them there.       

Yesterday, we eclipsed the 5,000 “like” mark on our Facebook page.  While it’s a neat milestone for us, we know that numbers are relative when it comes to things like social media.  What’s more important to us is the healthy conversation we see taking place daily on our Facebook page.  By providing information to our customers, we hope they and their animals benefit.  By receiving their feedback and gaining access to their joys, questions and concerns, we know we do. 

In the Air





Here’s a picture of the first snowflakes of the year, which arrived early last week.  We’re still in that narrow window when snow is considered a novelty – more aesthetic change of pace than nuisance.  Operating a business in a rural area makes a person especially in tune with the weather this time of year.  Major snowstorms can easily block roads and shut us down for a day or more.  At the same time, this past summer’s drought has perhaps given many of us a slightly different perspective on the coming snow.  In that way, I guess I’m a little conflicted this year when it comes whatever this winter holds.  Major blizzards aren’t much fun for work or travel, but they can go a long way toward healing the dry earth.  What about you?  What kind of weather are you hoping to see this winter? 

The Rise of Natural

I read an interesting editorial today predicting sales of natural pet foods to increase by over 30% in the next year.  This is a very exciting forecast, but not just from a manufacturer’s standpoint.  Admittedly, focusing on natural, “low input” products is in my and my company’s makeup.  Back when I was farming, I was attracted to growing hay because of the limited stress it placed on the environment.  Hay requires limited chemical input, and helps prevent erosion.  Unlike traditional grain commodities such as corn and soybean which must be planted annually, hay fields are viable for multiple years before needing to be replanted.  I’ve always believed that “less is more” when it comes to tampering with Mother Nature.  I always will.  

When I made the leap from traditional farming to starting my animal health company, I knew I wanted my philosophy of focusing on natural, healthy ingredients to translate as well.  For as long as we’ve been in the business of small animal food, we have been committed to developing innovative, healthy formulas and using the highest quality ingredients available.  This philosophy guided us strongly in 2008 when we introduced BeneTerra - the first USDA Organic line for small animals.

Over the years, we’ve seen the popularity and demand for healthy small pet foods grow steadily.  To see a prediction of a 30% increase in natural pet foods for 2013 is a reflection of the health of the industry and symbolizes the growing commitment of pet owners to providing the very best to their pets.  Healthier ingredients and foods means healthier pets.  As a manufacturer, it’s great to see the trend of people wanting to increase the quality of life for their animals.  As an animal lover, it’s equally uplifting.          
 

And the Award Goes to...




I’m happy to report that the Oxbow team returned safe and sound following last week’s AEMV/AAZV/ARAV veterinary conference in Oakland, California.  I enjoy every industry event I attend – from pet shows, to retailer shows, to vet specific shows and conferences such as AEMV.  These events are all great barometers for measuring the health of the industry from many different perspectives. 

We were particularly excited for this year’s AEMV/AAZV/ARAV Conference, as it symbolized the announcement and recognition of the 2012 Oxbow Exotic Mammal Health Award winner.  I’m proud to announce that this year’s winner is Dr. Karen Rosenthal.  Dr. Rosenthal serves as Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at the St. Matthews Veterinary School in the Caribbean, where she is held in the highest esteem by colleagues and students alike.  Her entire career, she has been touching the lives of those she teaches and works with.  We recognized Dr. Rosenthal with a reception in her honor last Wednesday night during the conference.  It was a very special occasion for all involved, and but a small gesture of an immense, collective gratitude that spans all across the industry.

Congratulations, Dr. Rosenthal!         
 

Emotional Bonds

I read an article today about the difficulty some rescues and animal shelters have when it comes to finding homes for bonded pairs of animals.  Most people planning to adopt a pet into their family are not prepared to take on the responsibility of adopting two together.  As a result, bonded pairs of pets often take a long time to find forever homes.  Breaking up bonded pairs can be emotionally devastating for the animals.  For this reason, rescues and shelters that go out of their way to keep these animals together should be commended.           

There’s no denying the happiness that pets bring into the lives of their owners.  The emotional reward of having a loving animal in the home is one of the main reasons many people make the decision to have pets.  Meanwhile, it’s important to remember the emotional wellbeing of pets.  Animals, like their caretakers, have emotional needs – needs which are fulfilled by owners and, in some case, other animals.

Thanks to all of the responsible pet parents out there for sharing their loving homes with their animals.  Thanks, too, to all of the pets for giving so much and expecting nothing but food, water and shelter in return.    

The Oxbow Exotic Mammal Health Award


In a couple of short weeks, I and members of the Oxbow team will be heading to Oakland, California for the annual AEMV/AAZV/ARAV Conference – an annual event which brings together some of the world’s foremost veterinary experts for four days of lectures, sessions and workshops.  Making this special event even more meaningful is the fact that we will be presenting our annual Oxbow Exotic Mammal Health Award as a part of the festivities.  Established in 2009, the Oxbow Award is an annual award designed to recognize an outstanding individual in the small exotics profession.  This year’s winner is no exception, with a long history of contributing within and giving back to the profession.  We are thrilled to recognize this individual with a reception following the announcement at the conference.  Stay tuned to our website and Facebook page for the official announcement.  In the meantime, thanks for your support and keeping up with the latest at Oxbow!  

Positive Thinking

”Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” - Henry Ford

When I first dreamed of converting my traditional farming operation into an animal health company, it would have been easy to focus on all of the obstacles that stood in my way.  Rather than dwelling on the inevitable difficulties, struggles and setbacks I knew I would face along the way, however, I did my best to employee positive thinking and focus on my many goals and dreams.  

Too often in life, we are tempted to focus on failure.  Rather than envision our future successes, we sometimes want to brace for the worst – to ease the pain of failure, should (when) we face it down the road.  While it’s always wise to have a contingency plan for any project, it’s essential to embark each and every day with success at the forefront of our consciousness.  Put quite simply, if you don’t believe you will succeed, you won’t. 

I’m not a Henry Ford scholar, but I have to imagine he was mostly undeterred by the inevitable problems, setbacks, and failures he experienced along the way to achieving his dream of building the Ford Motor Company.  In the end, I think we can all take something from the quotation above.  Think positive.  Believe in your dreams and goals.  Make success your only option.           
 

Haydar

For all of the many jobs that the production team at Oxbow performs every day, their ultimate goal is always the same: to put only the best hay or hay products into the bag.  Performing quality control on hay products is not the most glamorous job in the world, but it’s one that my team performs with great pride and diligence.  Because hay is a product of the earth, it’s not possible to exactly predict what might end up in a bale from the field.  For this reason, it’s especially important for my team to use all of their senses when evaluating hay.  High quality hay looks a certain way, just as it smells and feels special as well.  Utilizing all of these senses together takes special skill.  So much so, that I believe the process deserves its own special name.  I like to call it “haydar.”  By using their haydar each day, my production team does their part to help our company fulfill its promise to helping pets all over the world to be at their healthiest and best.     

Fellowship

This weekend, my wife, Pat, and I will take part in an annual tradition we both look forward to all year round - the Oxbow company picnic.  The Oxbow picnic is organized by our company’s Employee Council - a group of employees who, in addition to other important duties, volunteer their time and efforts to organize special, employee-centered events and activities.  As is always the case, this year’s picnic promises great food, lots of fun activities, and even some great raffle prizes.  What I enjoy most about this type of activity, however, is the opportunity for fellowship – a chance for my team and their families to enjoy one another’s company outside of work.  No matter the context, I believe that finding time for fellowship is crucially important.  Behind every job, every title, and every skillset, is a person with unique interests, passions and stories.  In taking the time to share these with one another, we all benefit.      

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