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Dairy Farming Mamas' summer survival guide

Heather Moore for Progressive Dairyman Published on 15 May 2017
child leading beef calf

Who doesn’t love summer time on the farm? Early mornings and late nights, bonfires and whippoorwills and county fairs. If we all think back, most of our best memories involve green grass and blue skies, rather than snow and wind and cold.

But in between all of those memories, cows still have to get milked, calves still have to get fed, and hay has to get made. How do farming mamas still take care of kids while taking care of business?

1. Get the kids in on the act

Remember the old adage “idle hands are the devil’s workshop”? Round up little buckets, rakes, shovels, whatever type of tools you use on a daily basis. Kids love to work like the adults in their life, and kids who are working aren’t kids who are getting in trouble.

2. Assign (age-appropriate) chores

Whether it’s feeding the kitties or taking care of the calves, every farm kid needs a way to feel productive and take ownership on the farm.

3. Find a special project

Last year, Tucker, with close supervision from Brandon, worked from January to July with an Angus-cross steer calf for his first year in the bucket-bottle calf class at the county fair. And that’s how we ended up with a 500-pound calf in kindergarten showmanship. However, his calf (named Calf) was calm, cool and collected in front of the full bleachers of the show barn. This year, we decided that it would be good for him to take those skills he learned last year and apply them to a project that could allow him a little more independence – bottle goats. Rather than starting with a 90-pound calf, we began with three, 10-pound goats that Tucker can tend to while we’re milking or otherwise busy with chores.

4. Keep a routine

During the school year, kids are used to a set pattern in their days. While summertime can be a welcome break and time to relax, a little bit of structure can go a long way. Waking up at the same time each day and having set snack times are just two ways that you can keep some routine in their life, without bothering the farm routine too much.

5. Don’t be all work and no play

Set aside some time to have some fun! It doesn’t take a lot of time or money to keep kids happy over the summer. Pack a picnic lunch and head to the park for an hour. Take a hike after morning chores. Build a bonfire in the evening. Use this time to rejuvenate yourself and unwind from your farm responsibilities.

6. Remember to read

After lunch at our house is rest and reading time. This dairy mama catches up on house chores and occasionally something outside while the little guys nap or read. As an added benefit, summer learning at home can help mitigate the “summer slump,” where children actually lose academic ground over the summer. One U.S. Department of Education study had 80 percent of children in rural and non-urban school districts showing a loss in reading proficiency over the summer. Even half an hour of reading time each day in the summer can keep our kids from losing ground – just providing access to age-appropriate learning materials can give children the leg up they need to be a success each school year.

7. Summer camp fun

Check out local summer camps and day programs in your area. Churches, the county 4-H, libraries and conservation centers often have all-day or partial day activities to give kids a change of pace and to give farm moms a chance to catch up at home!

Don’t let summertime stress you out. Take some time to appreciate the memories you are making on and off the farm!  end mark

Heather Moore is a dairy farming mama herself, raising three little boys with her husband, Brandon. The Moore family has a 50-cow dairy and custom feeds 800 head of beef cattle near Maquoketa, Iowa. When she is not chasing around cows and kids, you'll find her volunteering, cooking and very occasionally, sleeping.

PHOTO: Last summer, Tucker Moore kept busy by breaking an Angus-cross calf to lead. This summer, he will be raising goats. Photo by Heather Moore.

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