A duo of caring dairy farmers

It’s spring break for many right now and families are visiting hot spots like Disney World, Pigeon Forge or the Ozarks.   For my in-laws, vacation has an entirely different meaning.  As two extremely hard working dairy farmers, they spend November thru April tending to the cows on hand and hoof.  Probably the most important element to operating a successful dairy farm is providing the high, quality care.  The phrase “happy cows give happy milk,” couldn’t be more true.

Willis helping Granny feed the calves.

It’s the winter months when the girls’ princess status rises to queen.  It’s also when the work is doubled and sometimes tripled.  My father-in-law is adamant they are pristine.  To keep the cows safe from the winter elements, they lounge inside the warmth of the barn.  Besides milking, they are checked on at least three additional times during which time their hay is replenished and manure picked up – midmorning, mid-afternoon and late evening.  In the morning my mother-in-law is the first to go out and check on the cows and then feed the calves.  The evening chores usually begin an hour and a half before milking.  If weather permits, the cows go out for a little fresh air while the barn is cleaned out.  Their “sheets” are changed every afternoon, providing a new cushion of straw on top of their mats.  This is a very labor intensive process but ensures a healthy and comfortable environment.  They then receive their feed and hay just before milking begins.  Different than most modern day operations, the milk goes into a bucket and then carried to the bulk tank.  Most dairy farms have automated equipment which transports the milk directly from the cow, through a pipe and into the tank – much less work.  After milking is complete they are always content to lay down and chew their cud.  Late in the evening my father-in-law does the last check of the day.  Again, picking up manure and replenishing hay. There is one perk and that is the automated watering cups that re-fill as the cows drink.

Once spring arrives and the weather is favorable, the cows are moved out of the main barn in exchange for free stalls and a grassy hillside.  The move eliminates a large portion of the work that’s required during the winter.  Early last week the girls moved out for the spring and summer months…or so we thought.  With the temperatures getting near freezing overnight and the large amounts of rain it was necessary that they be moved back.

As a dairy farmer, one of my father-in-law’s foremost accomplishments is the result of that same hard work and provision of wonderful care.  Her name was Baclava and died at the age of 18, well past the average lifespan of a cow.  She passed away of natural causes last spring and at the time was the third highest producing Jersey cow in the nation.  Quite an accomplishment, deserving of a vacation, don’t you think?

Baclava - our 18 year old sweetheart

Weather forecasters are predicting warmer temps by this weekend so we are hopeful that the cows will be able to go outside and my in-laws will truly be on vacation!  Well, at least our definition of vacation.  Someday I’m hopeful they will take a break and go on a true vacation.  For now, they put the well being of the cows ahead of the Ozarks.

Don’t worry we all pitch in and give them mini-vacations throughout the winter!


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