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The Manure Spreader: Crisis management

Tim Moffett for Progressive Dairyman Published on 18 January 2016

A dairy farmer friend of mine told me that on his farm, “They don’t have preventative maintenance; they have crisis management.”

Farming of any type comes with a Ph.D. in jury-rigging. It is an ancient practice passed down from generation to generation like an old family apple pie recipe.

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I never learned how to fix an electrical starter, but my uncle Ray taught me that if I use a screwdriver to connect the positive and negative side at the same time, not only will I electrocute myself, but also the tractor will crank. My brother showed me the art of holding the gas starter button down long enough to light a hot water heater from 5 feet away.

And who hasn’t done the old “pulling a nail out of a flat tire and putting a bigger nail back into it to air it up” trick? Sometimes it’s an art form to finish the job.

Farmers have got to be the hardest people to sell new things to. Some of us think we’ve outsmarted the system ’cause “we can make one cheaper ourselves.” You don’t believe me? Flip through a copy of Farm Show Magazine.

I’ve seen a floating lawn mower to hunt ducks, a pecan shell cracker that uses .410 birdshot rounds, and a weed-eater used as a milk tank agitator. There is a theme here … always safer to buy new.

Growing up, we never had a hand tool with the handle still intact. From brooms to hammers, and axes to shovels, the handles were all held together with either a hose clamp or enough black electrical tape to retread a tractor tire.

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Why not duct tape, you ask? Cause we used all the duct tape to patch the slurry wagon. Where was OSHA when we were kids? I remember the only pitchfork our family owned. Half the handle was gone – but the half that remained was sharpened like a whale harpoon and impaled my spleen every time I cleaned out the stalls.

If I complained, I was told how easy this way was compared to the “old country.” Things were always harder in the old country, and every direction was uphill. I actually found the “old country” on the globe. It is located between Never Never Land and Gilligan’s Island.

As farmers, we do whatever it takes to get the job done. As dairy farmers, we take it to another level. My favorite example is a friend of mine that does agri-tours on his 500-cow dairy. This one particular day, two busloads of college kids arrived at his farm for a tour. That same morning, all the employees decided they needed the day off to recover from a Cinco de Mayo party.

So, being a seasoned dairy farmer, my friend decided to allow each student to feel the “experience of milking a cow.” He worked them like a puppetmaster. Only six students at a time were allowed in the milking parlor so as to give everyone their chance. He was able to get all the cows milked, and he only charged them an extra $2 a person for the experience.

So like the Home Depot commercial says, “Let’s get out there and get the job done; six months’ interest free when you use your Home Depot credit card.”  PD

If you like Tim’s column, be sure to like him on Facebook.

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