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HERd Management: Count dairy trials as pure joy

Melissa Hart for Progressive Dairyman Published on 11 June 2019

Have you ever noticed that when you have to break some seemingly bad news to your young children, they aren’t nearly as bothered by it as you anticipated? A friend from school moves away, one of their show calves catches some strange disease and dies, or the water park plans get canceled because the hay is ready to bale.

These circumstances range from disappointment to devastation, and yet our children bounce back and roll with the flow. This is called resiliency, and I think dairy farm families have an extra measure of it.



The dairy futures have been inching upward lately, and fresh cow prices have rebounded just enough to sprinkle a light dusting of hope on the dairy industry. Now the talk around town is, “I think things are turning around.” Dairy producers who have been losing money hand over fist for the last three years are now feeling a little pep in their step because of a slight increase in their milk check. For people who have been living under the cloud of deep debt and low milk prices, it only takes a spark to light the fire of hope and optimism.

“Count it pure joy whenever you face trials,” is what James, the half-brother of Jesus, said in his letter to the Jewish Christians. I can’t say that when the gutter cleaner chain came apart and we were slopping through the manure spreader looking for paddles and links of the chain I was counting that as pure joy.

I also came up short on the joy part when we walked into a flooded barn in the middle of winter because a water line burst and sprayed water all night long. Not only were the gutters overflowing, but the cows were floating in their stalls as well. And that one winter night at 2 a.m. when I woke up to the dogs barking and I looked out the window to see a Jersey cow staring me in the face, well, I was not bouncing up and down with joy then either.

While those instances are not joy-filled moments in life, they do produce perseverance. We fixed the gutter cleaner, put in a new water line, and all the cows were put back in their places by people who were willing to work through the difficult circumstances. It’s not as if you have the option of giving up. In fact, giving up is not even on the radar.

My oldest son was put through his paces while training for special operations in the Air Force – treading water in a full uniform with a 40-pound backpack, staying up until 3 a.m. performing training exercises and then being assigned a 500-word essay that was due three hours later, when they were expected to rise and shine for another day of rigorous workouts. This is just a sampling of what he endured.


At the end of the survival training camp, they were interviewed and evaluated. One thing the officers repeated to my son over and over was that he never gave up. When things got tough, he dug in and kept going, finding the grit and determination from somewhere to complete the mission. They asked him how that was possible. He answered with one sentence: “Sir, I grew up on a dairy farm.” The officer smiled and nodded in understanding.

My son went further and explained that no matter what happened, on the farm you couldn’t just give up when things got difficult. He told them that when there was hay to bale, a cow was calving, the milk pump went out or we lost power, we had to keep going and find a way to keep things running. There was no “give up” option available.

Do you feel like you’re treading water in full uniform with a 40-pound weight on your back? Are you the only source of hope in your family? Are you the one they depend on to keep the plates spinning and the heartstrings tied up in a loving bow?

Count it pure joy. You are on your way to building a life of character. While today it looks like the sun will never shine, trust me, it will. We can trust the truth of God’s word that says in Romans you can rejoice in your sufferings because suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope. Put that on repeat in your mind and cling to it. When times get tough, repeat it again. And always know that hope will never disappoint you.  end mark

Melissa Hart
  • Melissa Hart

  • Dairy Producer
  • North Adams, Michigan
  • Email Melissa Hart