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HERD Management: There is more than one way to dairy farm

Annaliese Wegner for Progressive Dairyman Published on 30 September 2016
Eating at the feed bunk

I have been blogging and using social media to share my farm story for quite a few years now. When I first started, I knew there were going to be people who didn’t like what I had to say or didn’t agree with animal agriculture.

I knew there would be vegan activists who would say nasty things and criticize my way of life. Hey, haters gonna hate.

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What I didn’t expect was to receive negative feedback from other dairy farmers.

As my following continues to grow, I seem to find myself having more and more conversations with dairy farmers who don’t agree with how my family operates our dairy farm. I have been ridiculed by some farmers for using GMOs. Farmers with smaller herds have said, “You are not a real farmer because you don’t milk your own cows every day.”

I was criticized for our milking routine and how we raise our calves. I have even heard, “If you wanted to hire and manage employees, why don’t you buy a convenience store?”

This whole situation has me puzzled; aren’t we on the same team? Don’t we all have the same goal here? We all want to raise happy, healthy animals and produce quality milk. We are all out there bustin’ our butts everyday, doing what we love and just trying to make a good living.

So why does it matter how we do it? Why does it matter if I milk 550 cows 3x per day in a parlor and my neighbor chooses to milk 75 cows 2x per day in a tiestall barn?

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Why does the fact that I specialize in a particular area on our dairy farm instead of milking the cows make me less of a farmer? What is the big deal if we choose to utilize rBST and you don’t? So what if I have employees who work just as hard as me so that I can take a day off once in a while?

Why does it matter?! (I’m getting a little fired up here. Hold on, maybe I need to take a time out.) If you ask me, it doesn’t. As the saying goes, there is more than one way to skin a cat.

Turns out, there is also more than one way to run a dairy farm. We have all been dealt a certain hand of cards; we have all had different opportunities and struggles. Nobody knows more than farmers that you don’t just survive; you thrive.

My in-laws are perfect examples of this. Years ago, they decided they wanted to dairy farm and started by renting a couple different farms. Eventually, they bought their own place and began milking about 75 cows in a tiestall barn. There were many sleepless nights and years that weren’t so good, but they powered through and continued to grow and evolve.

Today, we milk 550 cows in a double-eight parallel parlor and have plans to expand in the near future. I look at where our farm is now and how lucky my husband and I are to continue the legacy my in-laws started.

Maybe that is why I get so upset when I hear other dairy farmers ridicule us for being a larger dairy or doing things differently. My in-laws worked hard to get us where we are today, and we continue to work hard as a family to be the best dairy farmers we can be.

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As farmers in this day and age, we already have enough going against us. Never before have we had to work so hard to assure consumers that our practices and products are safe or worry that an animal abuse video may be staged at our farm.

We have enough going on, so let’s stop picking on each other and support one another instead. Like I said, we all have the same goal: to care for happy, healthy cattle and produce quality milk. How we get there, really doesn’t matter.  end mark

PHOTO: Cattle at the feed bunk. Photo by Mike Dixon.

Annaliese Wegner
  • Annaliese Wegner

  • Dairy Producer
  • Ettrick, Wisconsin

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