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HERd management: Adapting to welcome a new member of the herd

Deanna Lanier Published on 24 February 2015

females on farm

Change. I don’t know about you, but I am not a big fan of change. It hurts to see a cow have to leave the farm or a heifer’s first calf pass away.

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It hurts watching the barn you grew up playing in have to be demolished. Yet sometimes the change is good. New heifers in the pen, a new milk record set or having three sets of twins born in one year.

This past year, we had a big change in our milking schedule. I used to milk all 14 milking sessions either by myself or with my dad when he wasn’t busy with other chores. Well, that all changed to not being able to milk by myself – for safety reasons for me and my growing belly.

We found out we were expecting in February, a year ago now, and could not be more thrilled – but with our kind of work came some hard restrictions to follow. Especially that “25-pounds-or-less” rule, which meant no unloading the calf feed or cleaning the bunks and hard spots of pens.

The list of the doctor’s rules was added with my dad’s and husband’s rules. I was no longer allowed to milk by myself for fear of getting kicked or something happening to me with no one there to help me. Also, I was no longer allowed to get the cows in from the pen, especially with the bull and chances of slipping.

All these changes, especially all at once, were hard to handle. As we all know, we have this “never stop working” and “hard work is all we know” because that is how we were raised on the farm or learned when we became farmers. It is hard. I hate to admit it; I am one of those prideful and stubborn individuals.

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While milking, I would wonder: How did other dairywomen do it? How does it work after the baby is born? It was hard to find anything on the Internet with advice from someone in my shoes. I don’t know many other dairywomen, and the ones I do know don’t have any children.

Well, this is just how one dairywoman made it through the nine crazy months of pregnancy and a few months afterwards. I milked almost every milking, mostly with my dad but sometimes with my grandmother or mother. For the most part of the pregnancy, until the last part of the third trimester, I was allowed to pre-dip the cows, put milkers on and post-spray them.

My husband made an easier way to pull the feed down from the feeders by using my foot. I still washed the barn every day, and I scraped the pens until my belly got so big we were scared one wrong jerk of the skid steer and it would hit the bars and injure our little one. I helped during planting and harvest by taking lunches and running errands. I still ran the tractor with the grain cart and swathed many alfalfa fields.

When I wasn’t helping out, I got to go home and take a nap. There were many discussions of what I was allowed to do and not do, and most the time I was very stubborn and fought it tooth and nail. I was happy to and it was important to me that I was still able to see “my girls” every day and help as much as I could, yet put the health and safety of my child first.

Thankfully, I never had any complications with my pregnancy. I milked up until the day we went to be induced. Now, my son’s birth story was a whole other story. After having an emergency C-section, I had to take it easier than I was expecting.

Every moment has been a joy with him, though. The tough part was getting back into a schedule. After two weeks, I slowly started back into milking again. Now the hard change was leaving our little boy.

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After the six weeks of rest, we came up with a new milking schedule. We would switch weekends, and every other week we switch between morning and evening milkings. It has been a good change. I enjoy milking with someone because sometimes it is just refreshing to talk to a person instead of a cow.

Every day is different on the farm and at home, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have my faith, my family – now with a beautiful little boy – and my wonderful cows. What more could a dairywoman want?

Life is full of change. It is up to us to make the best of every situation. Even the ones we want to be stubborn about. Just like having to keep our cows safe and our milk safe for our consumers. I had to take my son’s safety into consideration when I milked and did chores – and plan to do it again if we should have another child. PD

deanna lanier

Deanna Lanier
Dairy Producer
Valley Center, Kansas

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