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Perpetuating the positives

Laura Holtzinger for Progressive Dairyman Published on 19 April 2019
Chase Thompson

These are arguably the most difficult times in (dairy) farming history, with high costs and low market prices. The conversations and climate among dairy farmers and agriculturalists often reflect this. It can be disheartening, unsatisfying and, frankly, depressing. 

We’re all living it in some capacity, but instead of dwelling on the dark, what if we flip the script? Let’s focus on our joys. Let’s share our motivations, achievements and pleasures instead.

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I recently encouraged a group of agriculturalists to highlight their moments of everyday happiness. I was overwhelmed and refreshed by the quality and volume of replies.

Take joy in the calf pen

Jubilant babies seem to produce a surplus of satisfaction among agriculturists. Fellow farmers shared with me kisses from calves, the energy and excitement as they’re leaping about enjoying their freshly bedded pens and how rewarding it is to watch the little lovebugs grow and thrive. 

Aimee Jo Wittmann says she’s elated by the “bouncing and darting in and out” and seeing the happy, healthy excitement of a calf with a “full belly and a soft bed of straw.”

“I spoil my babies because they gift me with their joy for life,” she says.

For Melissa Cantor, it’s the special “feeling of absolute sheer joy when the weaned calves recognize you on a visit.”

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The gratitude and love the calves radiate make the trials, heavy workloads and long days seem easier and sweeter. 

Appreciate the younger generation’s involvement

Many proclaimed proud parenting moments as their basis of gladness. Catching their kids cuddling the cows and watching their grandchildren helping with chores, while marveling at the warm feeling of generations being involved with the family farm.  

Likewise, Jason Kline’s favorite moment is watching his toddler son tossing hay to the heifers.  

What Heather Ann Moore enjoys most is milking with her kids. 

“My oldest son thinks I make him milk because I need help, but really, I just think we both need the opportunity to connect one-on-one, and the barn is the perfect place to do so,” she says.

Be grateful for developing herd genetics

Some are driven by the thrill of genetic progress. They cite success as their primary sources of pride and pleasure: from admiring a group or barn full of well-scored, deep-pedigreed cows – to breeding and owning class winners or genomic giants – or the anticipation that comes with an especially exciting springer.

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Admire the cows’ individual personalities

Individual quirks and interesting tendencies are what amuse others most. 

Emily Monnat says she likes when certain cows come into the parlor together. “Moms and daughters, sisters, a group all sired by the same bull,” she says. “Little things that only someone who knows and loves them would notice.”

Find contentment in the simple things

Others relish such seemingly simple things as chores going smoothly, the support of family, the smell of fresh cut hay or the pinkish glow of a sunset on the silos and barn roof. The sights and scenery we experience every day and can still stop us in our tracks and take our breath away.  

Lisa Middendorf described such a scenario and the tranquility that farm mornings provide her. 

She appreciates “heading to the barn on the crisp, cold Minnesota mornings and taking an extra moment to look up at the stars and offer up a little blessing.”

Rena Mae Grover’s favorite farming moments mirror this. 

“I’m always the first in the calf barn in the morning,” she says. “When I walk in the door and all of the little ones are sleeping, it’s the most peaceful time of the day, and it always makes me so happy. I love mornings before the sun comes up and there isn’t any traffic – the farm is the best place to be.”  

Numerous farmers credited certain familiar sounds as treasured, as they can become associated with specific moments and fond memories. The sound of the milk pump humming was a fan favorite. 

My positives

For me, it’s raising and working with show cattle alongside my boyfriend, Matt. I love watching them all standing happily, devouring a fresh pile of hay. I enjoy breeding an especially special heifer. We get excited to inform our business partners about an exciting classification or event. I love promoting our Linehan Jerseys’ brand and updating our Facebook and Instagram pages with happy happenings and cool pedigrees. I get joy from staying current on industry news as well as learning from my father and other farming peers and mentors. And I love celebrating friends’ triumphs.

It’s understandable to feel frustrated, hurt, defeated or furious at times. Those feelings are valid. But don’t allow the struggles to steal your sunshine. Remember your “why.” Let’s count our blessings, encourage each other and remind ourselves why we do what we do. Why we work and care and love so hard. There’s so much to celebrate. Let’s better appreciate the special times and pleasures and highlight them with each other more.  

I challenge you to cultivate a culture of happiness and gratitude each day – in your barns, homes, conversations and hearts.  end mark

Laura Holtzinger is a freelance writer in Copake Falls, New York. She is also a co-owner of Linehan Jerseys.

PHOTO: Two-year-old Chase Thompson loves dumping grain into his family's MD Brookside show heifer’s feed tubs. His aunt Carly Shaw says, “He would feed them all day if we let him!” Photo provided by Carly Shaw.

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