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HERd management: Raising children on a dairy farm: Let them learn

Holly Hull Published on 28 June 2012

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This article was #18 of the Top 25 most well-read articles on www.progressivedairy.com in 2012. to jump to the article. It was published in the July 1, 2012 issue. Click here for the full list of the Top 25.

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According to the response it received, Idaho dairywoman Holly Hull’s HERd management column put into words what so many feel about growing up on a farm.

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The article received five online comments (scroll down or to read) with readers echoing Holly’s thoughts about the importance of providing her twin daughters with a strong work ethic. And nearly 50 percent of the traffic on this article came from readers posting and sharing it on Facebook.

Because this article was so popular, we asked Holly to have her twin daughters respond to:

Q. What have been some of your favorite experiences growing up on a farm?

I like to ride in the tractor with my dad when he’s baling hay so we could guess how many hay bales we’ll end up with. I also like to feed the baby calves bottles. It’s fun to milk. I like to dip the iodine. I like to nurse sick calves and help the babies out of their momma’s belly. I like to watch my dad spread manure in the fields. I love animals, so it’s fun. I have a great time naming all of them, and I could remember their names very easily.
—Shelby Hull, age 10

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Some of the reasons I like growing up on the farm is helping feed the calves with bottles. I also like feeding them grain and naming them. Remembering their names is as easy as remembering my stuffed animals’ names. Trust me, I have like five totes full. No kidding! I love helping milk because I like pushing the buttons and dipping iodine and putting milkers on their teats. I like being friends to the cows and calves because they are really nice animals. I like moving pipe with my family. Me and my sister always grab a pipe together (because they’re pretty heavy).
—Sydney Hull, age 10

PHOTO : The Hull family, left to: Shelby, Sydney, Holly and Rob Hull. Photo courtesy Holly Hull.

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ARTICLE

We always knew we wanted our children to help out on the farm.

Before our children were even born, we often spoke of what a great opportunity we had to raise a family on a dairy farm. We realize daily what an invaluable opportunity it really is.

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Our twin girls’ first job on the farm began before they could even walk. They had to learn to be content in the stroller or baby carrier in the milk barn while we milked the cows.

I always worried that we were asking too much of them, but when they were old enough to talk, they would beg to go to the barn on the nights I didn’t take them. Each year they get older, we give them a bit more responsibility.

One of their first jobs was to give the calves fresh water each night. They would end up soaking wet and it would take three times as long for them to do it as it would if I were to do it myself, but I knew they needed to learn.

Often, I would get them started on a chore and expect them to finish their task and return to the milk barn. When they didn’t return, I would head back out to check on them and find them in the pens with the calves, loving them and talking to them. The cows are truly their friends.

At the age of 10, they have achieved many milestones at the dairy. They are proud that they can finally carry a full bucket of grain or put a nipple on a bottle without help. I love to watch them show their friends how they do their chores.

They are proud of what they do and they see to it that it is done correctly. We are proud of them for what they are learning. They are learning how to work and how to have a strong work ethic – one that I hope will stick with them whether they end up working in the dairy industry or elsewhere.

They understand that the cows don’t get a day off, which means we rarely do. They understand that morning chores need to be done before we open gifts from Santa and instead of a Sunday nap after church, we need to go move pipe.

They are learning the exhilaration of saving a new baby calf after hours of working on its delivery and learning how to cope with the devastation when we lose one despite our efforts. All these things, I hope, are teaching them lessons that they can recount when faced with obstacles in their future.

We try to involve them in dairy promotion. Everyone in our children’s school knows that we have dairy cows. We attend their school each year and give a 20-minute dairy lesson to each class.

It is so fun for us because we are received like rock stars when we walk through the door. The kids eat up the video that we made of our family doing chores. They love sticking their fingers in the portable milker and, of course, they love drinking the milk chugs that we take for them to drink while we talk to them and teach them just what life is like on the dairy.

Because the kids in our community know we are a dairy family, they come to us with questions and comments. One of our children’s friends told our daughter that her family was no longer drinking milk because of the hormones and antibiotics her mom had read that milk contained.

My daughter was excited to come home and tell me that she got her all straightened out. Of course I followed up on things, and I was not only impressed that my then-8-year-old was able to defend the dairy industry but that the cows are important enough to her that she took the time to educate her friend.

Just last week, my other daughter came home from school frustrated because one of her friends at school had suggested in class that they do away with all the dirty farms. Her teacher did nothing to explain to the girl that without farms we wouldn’t have any food.

I encouraged my daughter to return to school and make sure all 28 kids and the teacher in that classroom understood why farms are important and that with only 2 percent of the U.S. population being farmers, we probably better do what we can to keep them.

One evening, we had finished up milking and moved the sprinkler pipe. My husband was headed out to bale hay. The twins and I decided to ride with him in the tractor so we could have a little time together as a family.

I grabbed a few things from the kitchen – because we hadn’t had time to eat dinner yet – and all four of us piled in the tractor. I was tired and frustrated, wondering to myself why we live this crazy lifestyle. One of my girls piped up and said, “Don’t we have the best life? We are so lucky that we are farmers.” Immediately my frustration was replaced with pride.

She was right; we are so lucky we are farmers. It is who we are, it has been our heritage for five generations – and one that I hope they will carry on. It is hard work, it is ups and downs, but it is one of the most rewarding jobs we could choose. All of the things we experience each day we are experiencing working side-by-side as a family.

I am not sure what path my twins will choose as they get older, but I would definitely be proud if they choose muck boots over high heels. PD

  • Holly Hull

  • Dairy Producer
  • Preston, Idaho

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