Growing up on a dairy farm is certainly one of the most rewarding experiences anyone could ever have. Now that I am a parent myself, I am constantly reminded of some of the unique experiences that only a dairy farm kid can have.
1 – The unpredictable circle of life
On a dairy farm on any given day, you can experience the highs of welcoming a newborn calf, or the lows of a favorite cow getting hurt and having to be culled. While most kids may experience the death of a pet, a dairy farm kid gets to experience the complete circle of life, from birth, through raising to death. A dairy farm kid gets to experience it all. However, through everything a dairy farm kid also learns that no matter what happens you have to wake up each morning and plow on. Regardless of what happened yesterday, today you still need to feed, water and care for all the cattle on the farm.
2 – Summer vacation means mowing hay or fixing fences.
While many kids get all excited about their summer vacation trip to Europe or Disneyland, a dairy farm kid knows that their summer will consist of repairing the pasture fence, mowing hay, or training a 4-H calf. There may not be the glitz and glamor of international travel, but the discipline and work ethic learning during these “staycations” will prove invaluable no matter what career is chosen later on.
3 – Baler twine can fix anything
While some kids grow up learning that duct tape is the fix all around the house, it pales in comparison to the power of baler twine. From fixing broken fences, gates and keeping your pants up, the limitless potential of baler twine is invaluable around the farm. Even now when I find myself in a pinch I think to myself “If I only had some baler twine I would have this fixed in no time.”
4 – A hard day’s work is not measured in hours
In most other walks of life, you will hear people talk about how many hours they have worked, but not on a dairy farm. Dairy farm kids learn that there is always more to be done and, “If you have the time to calculate how many hours you have worked, you haven’t worked hard enough.” Every dairy farm kid knows that the day starts well before sunrise with cows to be milked, and ends after sunset after the crops have been harvested, and the pregnant cows have been checked for calving. The best way to appreciate how hard someone has been working is not by listening to them complain, but rather it is by shaking their hands and feeling the calluses from all the work they have been doing.
5 – Mistreat a cow and you are going to get kicked….hard
Recently there has been much made about a video released about cattle abuse. While the actions in these videos are certainly deplorable, any kid actually raised on a dairy farm knows this is not how you treat cattle. If you mistreat a cow, she is going to kick you, and hard. Hooves are hard and can leave a bruise like none other. Mistreatment only escalates whatever problem you think you are dealing with.
6 – It’s better to lead than to push
When cows refuse to cross a gutter or go through the door it’s far more productive to lead them across than to try to push them. Pushing them in this kind of a situation is pointless and is only going to lead to greater frustration for you. A far better way is just to lead them. Lead and they will follow. This kind of attitude can also apply in life. Don’t push…lead.
7 – The measure of a man is not how much money they have but rather the community that supports them
While many love to tell you about how much money they have, a dairy farm kid learns pretty quickly in life that it’s not money that is the measure of a man, but rather how quickly the community around them supports them in the tough times. Recently we have seen this very measure proven again and again (Read more: Why the Dairy Community is the Greatest in the World….)
8 – Multitasking means doing more than two things at once
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard socialite mothers complain about having to watch the kids (which means having the nanny do the work for them) and then have to worry about cooking dinner (that again is done for them) and then have to be ready to go out and be sociable. Really, try having to feed the family, feed the calves, milk the cows, be a taxi service for both the kids and the farm and then whenever you have time also be the accountant and referee between the kids fights. (Read more: Dairy Farm Moms are Unstoppable and The Dairy Farmer’s Wife)
9 – You have to give love in order to receive love
Anyone who has ever taken care of a dairy cow has quickly learned that if you show them the love they will quickly show you the love back. When you take care of them, they will take care of you. You discover that having a vigilant focus on your cows’ comfort and well-being is the key to a successful dairy farm. Healthy, happy cows give more milk and lead far more productive lives than cows that aren’t treated well. It’s been scientifically proven that cows with more love in their life will outperform any cows that aren’t being treated well.
10 – Nothing is more refreshing than a glass of ice-cold milk, fresh from the cow
Raw milk may not be everyone’s personal preference and is even considered “dangerous” to some, but anyone who was raised on a dairy farm agrees that nothing compares to it. After moving away from the dairy, I will never enjoy milk purchased from the store as much as I loved the creamy goodness of milk from your own herd fresh from the bulk tank.
11 – It’s possible to combine your passion and your paycheck
Far too many people, these days, are lost in their careers. They are stuck in jobs that they don’t like, working in an industry that they could care less about. In contrast, anyone who has grown up on a dairy farm certainly has been exposed to the passion that comes with being a dairy farmer. Sure, the paycheck may not be as sexy, but a rewarding career is second to none.
12 – Nothing compares to working with family
Everyone talks about and values teamwork but there are no greater teams than the ones comprised of dairy families pulling together. Growing up on a dairy farm the dinner table acts as the boardroom table and pretty much every decision is made over a dinner of roast beef, mashed potatoes and a glass of ice cold milk.
Whatever “dairy dozen” you hold most dear, I have no doubt that they have a positive impact on your life — on or off the farm!