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HERd Management: Take care of mind, body and soul while being a full-time farmer

Christine Bender for Progressive Dairyman Published on 11 September 2017

Dairy farmers usually don’t have trouble caring for their animals, but sometimes they have trouble taking care of themselves. From working in the industry, and now being a dairy farmer myself, I have seen and experienced this firsthand.

Farming can be the perfect recipe for complete exhaustion, requiring attention to detail, extreme physical activity, long hours day after day and limited time off. If you’re not careful, you can quickly become fatigued and unable to do what you love.

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Regardless of where you may be in your life, taking care of your mind, body and soul are vital to your happiness and your business.

First, I’d like to focus on taking care of your body. I’m a young, female dairy farmer passionate about fitness and cows. Therefore, I think this one comes a little easier to me than others. If you’re anything like me, you have a long to-do list and about five more things will arise throughout any given day that will demand your immediate attention. Needless to say, we’re busy.

Sometimes so busy we don’t eat, or we grab a bag of chips, a candy bar or a can of soda just to keep ourselves going. Well guess what? If you eat crud, you’re going to feel like crud.

Taking care of your body to be able to keep up with the daily physical activity required on a farm requires you to fuel your body with real food. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water and eating a balanced diet. It won’t become a priority unless you make it a priority.

If you don’t eat well, you won’t feel well, and you will not be able to function at your best. This can have an influence on your daily life when it comes to taking care of your animals, your employees and, most importantly, your family. If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for them.

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Start by packing a lunch. Don’t ever jump in the tractor for the day without a bite to eat or water. Pack extra food for the days when work may be more physical than normal and you need the extra energy. Protein bars are great for on the go. Not only do they calm the hunger pains, but they can satisfy a sweet tooth as well.

Snacking throughout the day is great, even if you can only grab a yogurt, string cheese or a piece of fruit between daily tasks. Doing so can help prevent binge eating after going extended periods of time without food. Also, I’m pretty sure your waistline will thank you.

While you’re taking care of your body, don’t forget about your mind. Before returning to my family’s dairy farm, one of the things I took for granted was attending meetings. I could go to just about any dairy-related meeting I was interested in, and I went to a lot of them.

I love to learn and meet new people. However, now that I’m a full-time dairy farmer, I find it very hard to get away and make it to these meetings. Yet, I constantly remind myself how valuable it is, not only for me but for our business. It’s not only important to listen to the speakers but to build your network and learn from your peers. You never know when the person sitting next to you in a meeting may have already gone through the same struggle and could lend some insight.

Last, but not least, do what’s important to your soul. For me, this makes this come full circle. Make time for your spouse, your children, your community, your spiritual beliefs or whatever may be very important to you.

Farming is a huge commitment. It takes dedication and sacrifice. I love taking care of our dairy cattle, working outdoors and doing it alongside my parents. Additionally, I love to get off the farm and, gosh darn, I know when I need it. I am sharing this message because I want the best for all my dairy farm families and friends too.

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We owe it to ourselves and our businesses to be the best we can be, and we are only going to be able to do that if we follow these three basic guidelines.  end mark

Christine Bender is a dairy farmer in Watertown, Wisconsin.

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