In the dead of the winter in Minnesota, this is something we ask ourselves quite often, “Why dairy?” Most people, including myself, wonder why we would ever want to work through -25F windchills, drifts of snow, through the cold night, and more. But you know as well as I that the rewards of caring for animals and a job well done pay off. The satisfaction of saving a newborn calf. The excitement of tweaking a ration. The smile when your favorite cow is pronounced pregnant. Maybe it’s the love of constant learning as the industry evolves. Personally, I love a newly bucket trained calf trotting after me outside, cows licking the air as you scratch their tails, seeing a fresh cow bounce up right after calving, and seeing the light in someone’s eyes when they interact with a cow and see she has a personality for the first time.
Although I did not grow up on the farm, I have been involved in the dairy industry for ~6 years. I like to think I can bring a unique view to farming, since I came from the city. But I know the hardships dairy farmers experience. I have a huge amount of respect for them (you). My grandfather owned dairy cattle. 25 years after the farm was sold, his hands are still rough from the labor, and his body is weakening. But ask him about the “good old days” and he will still recall the antics of a certain cow, or the time the cows wouldn’t cross a creek, or the time he became one of the first farmers to practice AI.
But dairying comes with other battles. If you follow Dairy Carrie, or any other number of agvocates, you know that many think this way of life is “inhumane” or “unnatural”, although the actual words used might be much more unkind. Although everyone has their right to eat as they see fit, using false facts to promote their point of view hurts us. Offering these sorts of folks the opportunity to see your place, and with patience, can right a lot of myths. A recent blog here is just one example.
All in all, it’s a tough battle out there. Weather, politics, relationships, and luck all affect dairying. But ask yourself “Why dairy?” and I’m sure the countless memories and successes will come to mind. Dairy on!