Mike Veeman is a fifth-generation dairyman who brings the knowledge and experience of a lifetime of animal husbandry to his role as president of the Colorado Livestock Association. Mike began his career in California on his family’s dairy farm, which was relocated to Colorado in the early 1980s. Along with his father Andy and his brother Derek, Mike has worked to expand the family’s partnership. Veeman & Sons Dairy is located in Wiggins. The family also maintains a ranch outside of Sterling, which is home to both farming and heifer development operations.
Beyond his title of “dairyman,” Mike is also a devoted family man. He and wife Cindy have been married for 36 years. They have three children including two married daughters and a son who has returned to the farm to carry on the family’s business to the sixth generation. Mike is also proud to have five grandchildren. Mike will serve as president for two years until the CLA annual membership meeting in April of 2020, at which time he will become immediate past president. Here’s a Q & A:
Compared to other groups, CLA represents all sectors of the livestock industry. Why do you believe this is a benefit?
Regardless of what type of livestock you raise we are more alike than we are different. We face the same regulatory and legislative issues. Whether we are dealing with environmental regulation, animal welfare issues or water, we all have a shared interest.
As a multi-species organization, we benefit from a diverse outlook and when it comes down to it, we set our differences aside to move forward for the common good. As a result, we represent the industry with a strong and unified voice. Without this diverse coalition our industry would not be where it is today and would not have the bright future that I believe we have.
At the end of your term as president, when you look back at the previous two years what do you hope to be your greatest accomplishment?
We have narrowed our focus to legislation and regulation, and we have developed pinpoint accuracy on issues. I intend to ensure that we continue to focus on these issues and foster relationships with legislators and regulators.
Since its inception in 1998, CLA has not developed a formal succession plan. The Board of Directors believe that it is critical to the future of the association to have a plan in place to facilitate a seamless transition of our chief executive officer. We have formed a succession planning work group, which will be chaired by president-elect Dwain Weinrich and include CLA members Britt Dinis, Mike Thoren, Steve Gabel and Tom Haren. With the establishment of this advisory group, we have begun an important process.
If you had the opportunity to help guide future generations of livestock producers by learning from your own mistakes, what would you tell them?
Time has a way of slipping away from us. When we are young we make the mistake of assuming that we will live forever, and we tend to put things off and procrastinate. Early on, figure out what’s important to you and remain focused.
What was the most difficult day for you on the dairy and what did you learn from it?
In 2001, there was a Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreak in the United Kingdom and over 6 million cattle and sheep were destroyed. I remember watching CNN and seeing the farmers watch their entire life’s work literally go up in flames. The empathy that I felt for them was overwhelming, and it made me realize how vulnerable we are.
What has had the greatest influence on your career?
Five generations have influenced everything we are doing today. I am motivated by the struggles and sacrifices of the family who came before me.