It’s hard to believe it’s December while enjoying the sunshine that warms Allan Cossentine’s backyard on California’s central coast. His cozy new home overlooks the town of Paso Robles, and he and his wife, Suzi, spend most evenings enjoying the spectacular view while sipping from their abundant selection of local wine. This description certainly doesn’t seem to fit the life of a busy A.I. industry employee, but when you have worked hard for nearly 40 years and sold more units of semen than any other All West/Select Sires salesman ever before, this new-found relaxation is well deserved.
Although he has experienced great success in the dairy business, Allan Cossentine wasn’t raised in the industry. In fact, the Southern California native had ambitions of becoming a doctor after serving in the military for four years and working at a bank for two years. Shortly after transferring to University of California-Davis as a pre-medical student, the 26-year-old freshman realized medicine was not his calling. “It’s wonderful to know that God had other plans for me because I would have been a terrible doctor! I’m not very good with detail as most people who work in the All West office can tell you,” Allan humorously explained.
As he pondered other areas of study, he recalled his love for horses, having grown up near Santa Anita Park where he spent much of this time watching horse races. It was this hobby that led Allan to pursue an Animal Science degree, in hopes of becoming a thoroughbred horse trainer. He went on to earn his degree in Animal Nutrition from UC Davis. Although he still had little hands-on experience with livestock, besides milking cows at the UC Davis dairy for a short period of time, Allan was determined to get a job in the industry shortly after his graduation.
He started by reaching out to a friend he had met in the military, who had started a liquid livestock feed business in the Pacific Northwest and was interested in expanding business to California. Allan agreed to help him grow his business and spent the next several years living in a large warehouse at the Port of Stockton making liquid feed. When the business didn’t grow as planned, Allan found himself on the job hunt yet again, although it wasn’t all bad luck. While living at the port, Allan met his true love, Suzi and the two decided to buy a ranch in Acampo, California. The first few years of marriage were quite an adventure, as the two learned how to raise cattle together for the first time on the 10 acres of irrigated pasture they had acquired.
As the job search continued, Allan saw an advertisement in the local newspaper for a position with an artificial insemination company called Eastern A.I. His experience with the business was only from watching his own small cattle herd be serviced, but he applied anyways and earned the job position right away! This job required Allan and Suzi to leave their ranch in 1977 to move to Hanford, CA. Allan quickly became one of their top salesmen, but was strangely let-go only two years into the job.
At the time, Suzi was working for a dear friend and long-time board member of All West/Select Sires, Norman Martin. Norman happened to be good friends with Lloyd Vierra, who was managing Superior Sires, what is known as All West/Select Sires today. When Suzi went to work very distraught that Allan had been fired, Norman quickly referred Allan to Lloyd. It wasn’t long before Select Sires Inc.’s Dick Chichester and Lloyd met with Allan for an interview and Allan was hired just two weeks later. This first day of work was coincidentally the first day of World Ag Expo held in Tulare, CA.
“I will forever be in their debt. Tom Olson and Lloyd Vierra took me on when I was feeling pretty low. I had never been fired from anything in my whole life. Working for them wasn’t like having a real job, it was like working for best friends. They took care of us. The early salesmen all agree that we would have worked as hard as we did in the beginning just for those two guys. That’s what they meant to all of us.”
Allan recalls the early years of working for Superior Sires as some of the best of his whole career. The office, located in Tom Olson’s garage, was small and filled with only a few team members who serviced all of California. Allan believes in All West’s value of family on our team today, and is thankful that he got to truly experience it from the start as our small team operated like a family in every aspect of business.
When Allan first began, he was servicing the Tulare area, which eventually expanded to Kings, Kern, and Tulare counties as well as the coast from Hollister to Santa Maria, CA. Dutch Aldrich was also working for Superior at the time and left a lasting impression on Allan. “Bless his heart. I learned an awful lot from Dutch and he played a big part in many of our lives. Dutch told me once that he worked seven years without taking a day off, which I thought was crazy. But I think any of us would have done that if that’s what it took.”
Six months into Allan’s career with Superior Sires, Denis Curtin was hired and has become one of Allan’s “dearest and closest friends”. As Allan had become Sales Manager, he was tasked with training Denis, who had recently immigrated to California from Ireland. “Still to this day, I remind him that all of his success is due to me and my training when he first began,” Allan jokes.
Denis is not the only team member who Allan admires. He mentioned Don Davis, Marvin Correia, Greg Silva, and Angie Kennedy, as a few other All West employees that he will miss working closely with. “The relationship that I have had with my teammates has been an absolute blessing. There was never a day when I didn’t want to get up and go to work. I was blessed to be in probably the best territory in the world to sell semen, and doing so for the very best company. It’s been a great ride.”
After over 40 years in the business, Allan has seen many great industry changes. He still recalls the days of the small family farms, where time seemed to move slower and technology was lacking. Today, as he services many of the grandchildren of his original customers who are now managing their dairy operations, he still marvels at the intense use of computers, embryo transfer and genomics. “The jump ahead in genetics for our dairymen today is just amazing. The fact that we are selling semen from bulls whose grandfathers don’t have daughters milking yet is just freaky. If you would have asked people 10 years ago if they thought technology would be what it is today in this industry, I don’t think many would have predicted how cool it is now. It’s really good and exciting for our dairymen.”
Although times have changed and the industry has progressed, Allan’s keys to success have not. “Never bad mouth the competition. If you can’t sell your product on its own merit, you might want to look for another job. You have to believe in what you sell. Be honest. Be patient. Never interrupt a dairyman at work to make a sale. Respect your customers. When in doubt, always abide by the Golden Rule: Treat people the way you’d like to be treated,” Allan advises.
Nearly 40 years later, Allan’s standards have paid off, having customers who he considers more as family than as business prospects today. “I have a really good rapport with my customers. Over the years, I became very close with them, because I didn’t only see them when I was selling product to them. I saw them at industry dinners, fairs, church and more! The dairy industry is a very special community. I always treated my customers the way I would have liked to be treated if I owned a dairy myself. I have been as loyal as I can be and they could always count on me. Honestly, I have put my customers before the company itself at times. Without the customers, we don’t have a company.”
Allan described being a salesman as a “blessing”. “To be able to work flexible hours with friends, while making a good living in a good place, and still being about to attend all of my kid’s sporting events, etc. was a privilege that I realize not everyone has.” Allan viewed himself as more than a salesman, and described the constant need that he felt to service his customers. “I felt like their caretaker and was almost paranoid that they may call saying they needed something that I hadn’t already provided them, Allan admitted. “They were depending on me to provide for them.” That desire to serve had Allan working seven days a week, ten hours a day at the peak of his career. This was also during the time when he was the father of three young children, and he gives Suzi many thanks for raising their children.
Although he loved his job, the truth is, Allan never wanted to be a salesman. When he was first learning the trade, he heard a saying ‘A good salesman is someone who can sell someone something they do not want or need.’ He told himself he never wanted to be that guy. “Dairy producers hire us to be not only salesmen, but account managers to take care of their herds. I like to think that we are really valuable to our customers. I try to tell my customers every time I visit them, ‘Thank you for trusting me with this job, in this role as your future herd’s caretaker’.”
Allan knows he was not able to fulfill this role on his own. He always praised our professional A.I. technicians for their service. “Our breeders are some of the best in the business. I have always been a big fan of them because I never wanted to do their job. If there isn’t someone with their arm in a cow, we don’t have a business.”
Allan also gives thanks to his managers of the past, including Lloyd Vierra and Bill Genasci, noting that these great men were more like friends than bosses. He thanks today’s All West General Manager, Jim Wells, for allowing him to make retirement more of an extended process than a final date.
Retirement itself is something that Allan describes as “frightening”. For a man who has either worked, been in school, or both since the age of 12, the thought of having nothing to do scared him. However, Allan has recently discovered how much there is to do in his new community and has quickly created a long list of things he looks forward to doing, including volunteering at several war museums as a veteran, pouring wine at one of San Luis Obispo Counties 300 wineries, and he might even start playing golf! In the meantime, Allan and Suzi’s three children and five grandchildren are sure to keep them busy with school activities and sporting events! The newly retired couple also have three exciting trips planned for 2019 to Hawaii, Cancun (thanks Select Sires Inc.), and Portugal & the Azores Islands.
Suzi will also be retiring from her long career in the dairy industry at the end of 2018. Their son will be taking over the bookkeeping that she has faithfully done for a local dairy in Hanford, CA for many years. Both Allan and Suzi cannot even begin to express how amazing the dairy industry has been to them. “We have learned to really appreciate the dairy industry and the love of those involved in it. The cows are nice, but the people are amazing.”
Allan officially retires from our sales team on December 31, 2018. His career total units sold as of November 30th, 2018 was 3,678,860, a number he is extremely proud of. Although he leaves behind great friends, teammates, customers, and cattle, he takes fond memories with him into retirement. As he lifts his glass to take another sip of wine, a glimpse of the Superior Sires logo can be seen on his upper arm, a forever memory of where his impressive career began.