Prior to my marrying a dairy farmer and moving to the dairy I was ignorant of the majority of happenings on one. I grew up in rural California where my father had a cow, but she was sold when I was about 5, so beyond the very basics I knew nothing about the day to day conditions or events of running of a dairy farm.. In downtown Portland, where I lived for 12 years before moving to Missouri, one doesn’t see many dairies beyond one called the Belmont Dairy which is actually a large grocery store with spendy lofts for rent on the upper story. There are many dairies in rural Oregon, but I was not fortunate to have visited any of them and picked up any practical knowledge. So once I became an adult what I learned about dairies I learned from the cow commercials I saw on TV when I visited my mom back in California; Holsteins are immaculate, live in lush, knee deep grassy fields, where the bulls yak companionably and the cows chit chat like a group of gals gossiping over a steaming latte.
Then, upon arrival into day to day dairy living I was introduced to the facts of real dairy farming, which I had suspected was more likely the truth; cows don’t care where or what they lay in, or what their tails get coated with, dairy bulls are more likely to maim than to converse and, while bovines are herd animals and like company, they are quick to form a pecking order in the herd and will abuse those who are lower on the totem pole than themselves.
In cow commercials one does not see the vermin; ticks, flies and other parasites that inhabit the dairy along with the bovines. Keeping the cows disease free is quite the never ending chore; a constant worry and headache for the farmer. Speaking of which, the dairy farmers are also conspicuously absent from said commercials, or if present, are never shown slogging around in ankle deep mud in spring or slipping on the ice and snow in 10 degree weather in winter.
Once past such things however there are certainly fun tradeoffs in dairy farming. For one thing you are your own boss; you may lead a rigorous life, but there is no one standing over your shoulder harping about customer service or productivity. There is a certain magic at 5 in the morning when the moon is full and the owls are querying into the early morning air. At 2 in the afternoon when it’s 105 degrees outside you can jolly well go take a dip in the river and there is none to say you nay. Oh, yes, the calves and their knock-kneed charm. There is no escaping the fact that the calves are the most exasperating and fun element of dairy farming. It is less than charming to get slobbered on by them, but watching their capers it is easy to fall under their spell of fun and carefree joy. I dont' want to ruin my blog on calves, so I will leave it at that.