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HERd management: No dairy farmer is an island; we float or sink together

Laura Flory Published on 17 July 2015

females on farm

While most of my big realizations hit me faster than cow poo hits a clean pair of clothes, my latest one seems to have taken a while. Let me explain.

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On a recent flight home from some time away from the farm, I found myself seated between two couples I did not know. My husband waved to me from a few rows up as we prepared to take off. We had decided not to spend the extra dollars to choose our seats this particular trip, and it was a short flight anyway.

The folks to my right were already fussing when I sat down. The folks on the left got about halfway through the flight before the wife finally piped up and really let her husband have it about whatever it was they were unhappy with each other about. It was a bit awkward, to say the least.

When we landed, I felt more comfort than usual in finding my husband waiting patiently for me with a smile on his face. For the first time in our five years and 364 days of being married, I realized firsthand that the dairy just might have contributed more to my life than I thought.

As all the other passengers filed off the plane on this Friday afternoon, we gently patted each other on the back, knowing we were headed back to work, most likely a lot of it. But we were in it together. Cue the big realization.

While I certainly understand everyone has a bad day, something about listening to those folks’ conversations struck a chord I wasn’t used to hearing. Don’t get me wrong; we have our share of bad days too, probably most of them falling during this time of year.

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As if the cows weren’t enough, throw in crop work and a little hot weather, and there is a tendency for this farm girl’s temper to run a bit short. While I might not have let my temper flare on an airplane, there have been plenty other examples to choose from.

Have I kicked the dirt over the fact that I had to take lunch to the field one more time? Yes.

Have I been an absolute lunatic because somebody didn’t do something the way I would have? Sadly, yes.

Have I wondered what on earth I was thinking when I thought this would be fun? Yes, again.

But until that day on the plane, I had missed one big thing the dairy life has given me in return for all that hard work. Without living the life I do, I might have missed out on knowing how it feels to truly be part of a team.

As I listened to those folks argue over whether or not that topic was the other’s business, or who was supposed to have mown the yard or taken out the trash, I realized my life was starkly different from theirs.

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As much as I sometimes wish I could, I don’t have the luxury of handing my husband a honey-do list every Saturday or knowing whether or not he’ll even be home to eat dinner.

I’m guessing that if you’re reading this you also might be a wife who has to drive dinner to the field, or the farmer who is feeling a bit overwhelmed. Maybe you’re the seasoned manager, or the new guy who started last week. But I think we might all have something in common – we all need each other.

In our line of work, I have quickly learned there isn’t much room for egos. All mine has done is crowd out any room for reality and left me standing there stomping in the dirt, alone. For a long time, I thought that success in this business meant acquiring that “do it all yourself” mantra. The longer I farm, the more I realize that real success can only be celebrated in the company of those who are working each day beside you.

Though easy to forget, most of us have resources far greater than available to other professions. They are the ones who work the long shifts and who bring us spare parts to the field. They are the ones we call when that cow is being stubborn and the ones who fill in when we’re sick.

They answer the phone when we don’t know why something isn’t working, and they tell us it will all be OK when we had three cows with a DA this week. They aren’t merely our family members, employees and industry professionals; they are our team.

So whatever role you play – the wife, the husband, the milker, the manager, the vet, the nutritionist, the part timer, the bill payer, the mother, the father, the son, the daughter or the daughter-in-law – let’s all get up tomorrow and be grateful we have each other, on the bad days and the good.

In the words of Henry Ford, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” PD

Laura Flory
  • Laura Flory

  • Dublin, Virginia
  • Hillside Farm

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