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HERd management: True confessions of a farmwife: I didn’t love the farm at first

Holly Hull Published on 19 November 2012

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This article was #25 of the Top 25 most well-read articles on www.progressivedairy.com in 2013. It was published in the November 21, 2012 print issue.

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Click here for the full list of the Top 25.

In this candid column, Idaho dairywoman Holly Hull opens up about her transition from a city girl to a farmwoman. She shares the struggles of taking on duties on the farm and how she eventually came to love the work almost as much as her husband, Rob.

We asked Rob Hull,
Q. In your 18 years of marriage, what has been the best thing about Holly embracing the farm life, and what have you been most surprised by that she’s been willing to do?

The best thing about Holly embracing the farm is the support and encouragement I get daily from her along with having a pair of extra hands that get used often. There is a long list of things I’m surprised she has taken on, but pulling calves and putting up with me while cutting out cows have to be the top of the list. PD

—Rob Hull, Idaho dairy producer

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Herd management

When I met Rob, he claimed he was a farm kid, but he drove a motorcycle and worked in car audio at an electronics store.

I had always had a crush on him in high school and couldn’t believe he actually asked me out.

We dated for a year and, despite the fact we were so young (19 and 22), I couldn’t deny that he was the one – and we got married. Life was perfect; I was working at Utah State University . Rob was still working at the electronics store, installing car stereos.

We lived in a cute little apartment near campus and were able to hang out with friends each night, go for motorcycle rides to get snow cones and basically just play. Life was pretty carefree. Rob had always told me he intended to return to the farm. I always thought “OK, whatever” and forgot about it.

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We had been married nine months when he told me it was time. His grandfather and uncle were no longer able to offer much help and his dad was struggling doing all the labor himself. Rob was ready to move back to the farm. All of a sudden, I started to panic!

I had been hearing the horror stories about farming. You know the ones: You never get a day off. You have to work early in the morning until late at night. You’ll always be poor. And, worst of all, you will smell like cow manure! I found myself in tears. Why didn’t I ever question him about what going back to the farm would entail?

How was I going to move from the big city of Logan, Utah, back to a little town with one stoplight? This didn’t sound like a fun adventure at all. But I trusted Rob, and I could see that this was something important to him, so I agreed.

I remember sitting in the milk barn while he was milking that first week with my nose tucked under the collar of my shirt. He was all but beaming. I was trying to find some positives, but I was struggling. I wasn’t seeing what was so great – and it was true after being in the milk barn, I smelled like cow manure!

I thought I would give him a hand at feeding calves (after all, they were cute), and I remember helping my grandfather feed baby calves on his beef ranch if they lost their mom. What I didn’t remember is that they were wild and slobbery and not very easy to feed.

Saturday rolled around and Rob invited me to ride in the tractor with him. There wasn’t a buddy seat in the old Allis Chalmers that we had – it was dusty and a rough ride.

I gave up. The farming thing just couldn’t be for me. I headed home to our apartment and pouted.

After a few hours, I got lonely and headed back to the farm. Trying to dig deep and find out why he loved this so much, I started asking questions. He started explaining how the milk barn equipment worked. Interesting for sure. I felt like I was on a field trip.

A few weeks later, we went out to the field that had been planted. How fun to see the whole field covered in rows of tiny sprouted barley! Rob explained that eventually this would be part of the feed for our cows. It was becoming hard not to catch his enthusiasm.

Over the summer, I learned about the crops, I helped move pipe and I rode with Rob to swath hay.

I enjoyed learning and being able to spend time with Rob working side by side. (Although, looking back, I don’t know how much help I was then.)

I loved watching Rob, his grandfather, dad and uncle all squish into the old farm truck to go fix fence in the foothills. His family all worked as a team, and I was beginning to love being part of that team.

As the years passed, Rob taught me how cows’ feed affects their milk production. How important it is to make them comfortable because this affects their production as well. I loved watching his excitement when he could track his records and see a cow that now had daughters in the herd and how well they were performing.

I loved hearing the reports of the field – how the crops yielded. I loved learning of how little changes we were making were affecting our rolling herd average. I learned how to help deliver a new baby calf. And I loved how I grew to love the cows; they were part of the family.

I knew I finally felt what Rob had felt and why he wanted to farm. It is a pride for our farm. Things weren’t always perfect. Sometimes the crops got rained on or didn’t turn out as good as we had hoped. Sometimes we lost a cow or a calf. But for the most part, what we put into the farm we got back out. The work was addicting because you could see the results. One of my favorite quotes is one that Rob has printed and sitting on his desk:

“Let us realize that the privilege to work is a gift, the power to work is a blessing, the love of work is success!” —David O. McKay

So here we are. Seventeen years later. We haven’t had much time off. We don’t have a lot of money. We replaced our motorcycle ride with tractor rides – and we do smell like cow manure. (Thank heaven a shower can remedy that!)

But we have spent irreplaceable time with family members, learned the value of honest, hard work and continued a legacy spreading over five generations. Every day I kneel and express my thankfulness for that and that I married someone who knew of the blessing that living a farm life could provide. PD

Holly Hull
  • Holly Hull

  • Dairy Producer
  • Preston, Idaho

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