Early Spring

As was the case for many folks throughout the country, spring arrived early at Oxbow. One look around outside throughout March showed signs everywhere – buds on the trees, grass turning green overnight, the general feeling of an early rebirth. Spring is breathtaking enough when it’s on schedule. As it turns out, an unexpected, early spring is even more awe inspiring.

Spring is especially meaningful when your livelihood is defined by nature. Everything we do at Oxbow centers around a pure product of nature - hay. While men may be responsible for farming hay, it’s Mother Nature who guides it along the way.

An early spring means that the hay fields around Oxbow have sprung to life earlier this year - already they’re growing, thriving, working to be their best. If you ask me, it’s hard not to feel inspired to do the same.

Teamwork

We have a “new employee” ritual at Oxbow – something that everyone who is hired goes through during their first week.  Regardless of job title, every new employee is required to spend a day working on the production floor.  Production is the heart of Oxbow.  It’s where all of the hay that eventually makes it into a bag on the shelf is sorted, handled, packed and boxed.  I want all of my employees to understand hay – how it smells, how it feels, the characteristics of a premium crop and what it takes to achieve it time and again.  There’s no better way to accomplish this than by placing my team directly inside the heart of the action.  In doing so, every accountant, salesman, customer care representative, and IT team member knows the product and understands the process of ensuring that we fulfill our promise of premium nutrition to pets all over the globe.  If you ask me, it’s teamwork at its finest.  

Recognizing Pam

Today is a very bittersweet occasion for all of us at Oxbow.  After almost ten years of loyal service and guidance to thousands of customers and pets, Pam Orr from our Customer Care department is retiring.  While I am thrilled that Pam will now have more time to spend with family (including many furry family members) and friends, I am selfishly very sad to see her go.   

Throughout her career with us, Pam has embodied all of the best qualities of our company.  She was the right person for the job from the very start.  Day in and day out, she brought not only passion for her work, but compassion for the universal wellbeing of small pets.  Along the way, Pam has helped us redefine how we think of “customer care.” 

Pam has served not only as Customer Care Specialist, but as therapist, friend, and counselor to first time and veteran pet parents alike.  In times of stress and grief among pet parents, Pam went above and beyond time and time again, sending cards and letters, making phone calls, and caring deeply.  It’s not what she does; it’s who she is.   

Pam has always gone out of her way to avoid accolades and attention.  In fact, I’m sure she would cringe at the thought of me writing this now.  However, I would be remiss to not recognize her legacy at Oxbow.  And, most importantly, to say “thank you.”   

National Ag Day

I was just reminded that today is National Ag Day.  The history of National Ag Day dates back to 1973 when it was established to help increase the public awareness of agriculture's vital role in our society.  With a growing global climate, agricultural awareness amongst the public is more critical now than ever.  The world’s food producers will be relied on more and more in the coming years to produce safe, healthy foods to feed the world’s human and pet populations.              

Every decision we make at Oxbow has a direct connection to the land.  Every product we produce (present and future) requires the promise of healthy, premium ingredients.  The same principle applies to people all over the world.  The food we consume each day comes from ingredients produced by farmers.  In this way, we put our trust in farmers and rely on them to help us be at our best on a daily basis.

To all of the farmers and individuals whose work contributes to the field of agriculture – thank you!

Global

Greetings from the airport.  As I type this, I’m boarding a plane for Orlando where I will be trading in the cold rain of Nebraska for a few days of mild temperatures and sunshine.  For the remainder of the week, myself and other members of the Oxbow team will be attending the Global Pet Expo.  We look forward to the show every year.  It’s a great place to check out new products throughout the industry, and to launch your own.    

For those of you who have not been to the Global Pet Expo before, it’s an amazing collection of the industry’s leading manufacturers.  The most exciting part of the show, though, is the individuals who attend.  The audience at Global is made up of both retailers and pet owners from all over the country.  I love talking to the folks who interact with our products on a daily basis.  Their feedback, more than anyone’s, helps us improve our products and gives us ideas for great new ones.

Here’s to a great show this week!  If you’re going to be there, be sure to stop by booth #1953 to say “hi” and talk about all things pets and pet nutrition.       

Human Spirit

This morning, I read a moving news story about a very caring police officer in Texas.  After rescuing a man from flood waters, the officer noticed a rabbit struggling in the waters as well.  Without hesitation, he went back in to rescue the animal.  This officer’s actions are a testament not only to the human spirit, but to the power that animals have to bring out the best in humans.

Over the years, I have become very familiar with pet owners and the personality traits and qualities they share.  Pet caretakers are compassionate, loving individuals.  They make a conscious choice to provide nutrition, care, and shelter to their animal companions.  Doing so is no small task.  Rather, it’s a serious commitment that requires a daily investment of time, money, energy and emotion.  Ultimately, the world is a better place not only thanks to pets, but thanks to their caretakers as well.
 

Markers

Mother Nature delivered us the first real sign of winter this past weekend.  By the time the snow was finished, we ended up with right around a foot of very heavy precipitation.  Prior to the storm, we’d been experiencing an exceptionally mild winter, with a good number of days in the upper 50’s and 60’s.  I had to chuckle when I noticed that one of our friends on Facebook coined a new term for the unseasonable recent months, calling the spring-like winter “Sprinter.”

While a snow storm can be an inconvenience and present travel difficulties for some, it’s a good reminder that the world keeps spinning and time marches forward.  These types of reminders are important to remaining innovative and challenging ourselves in the time we have.  Every snow storm, every summer thunderstorm, every “leap forward” and “spring back” is a marker in our journey through life.  Here’s to making your journey great through every season.      
 

First Impressions

We all know what they say about first impressions; we only get one shot at them.  With this in mind, we take special care in our introduction to exotics owners interested in learning more about our products.  Day in and day out, there is one special group of individuals responsible for representing the Oxbow brand to the general public.  We count on our Customer Care team to be knowledgeable, friendly and helpful in every way.  I’m happy to say that they truly go above and beyond in accomplishing these goals.  In doing so, they don’t just make great first impressions, but great second, third and fourth impressions as well.  In the long run, we hope every “first” encounter with a customer turns into a lifelong relationship.  However long that relationship might end up lasting, I’m happy knowing that our Customer Care team will be there every step of the way.     

In Support of Rescues

The end of the calendar year marks a special occasion for all of us at Oxbow.  Each December, we have the honor of announcing the year’s rescue grant recipients.  For the past ten years, the Oxbow Rescue Grant Program has been awarding thousands of dollars in cash and product to deserving rescues from all across the United States and Canada.  Since the program’s inception, we have seen a continuous increase in applications annually.  2011 was no exception.  Last year, we reviewed a record number of applications and awarded $20,000 to a total of eight rescue organizations.  These grants will help support animals in many ways – from educational support, to operating support, to capital improvements such as funding to build a small animal room for complete care.

Giving back to the organizations who give so much in the name of animals is an honor.  In the same way, it’s a responsibility as well.  Because all animals deserve a chance to be loved and cared for, we have the responsibility of helping make this care possible.  I only wish we had the ability to provide funding to every rescue in need.  Until that day, myself and everyone at Oxbow will continue to contribute to rescue organizations as we’re able, and thank them always for their service to animals everywhere. 
 

Public Perception

For many years, rabbits and other small animals were thought of as “throw away” pets – pets given as gifts and not expected to live long, healthy lives.  Over the years, myself and others have worked hard to dispel this dangerous misconception by educating the pet owning public about the importance of proper nutrition for small pets.  In the end, a world full of knowledgeable pet owners means a better world for healthier pets. 

In the spirit of providing knowledge to the public, I was very excited by the prospect of helping sponsor a recent public event designed to help educate potential and future owners of small exotic pets.  The event, called Small Pets 101, took place on Monday night in Knoxville, at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine.  Small Pets 101 was a free public event, with talks by our veterinarian and Director of Technical Services, Dr. Micah Kohles, Dr. Cheryl Greenacre of the University of Tennessee, our Education Coordinator, Alicia, and a representative from a local guinea pig rescue. 

I wasn’t able to attend the event, but I’m told that it was a great success.  As a result, I’m sure we will attempt to sponsor similar events in the near future.  In the meantime, thanks to everyone working to spread knowledge about pets and their health. 
 

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