Sometimes I wish I would have known more about being a dairy farmer before I agreed to this life. I was ready for the obvious early mornings and long days, missed family functions and rare vacations, but I was not prepared for the smaller details, you know - the fine print, they say. Let's take into account that I was a baby adult and had actually lived out on my own for like a minute, and I had thought my college business planning course laid a solid foundation for all I needed to know about owning a business. Spoiler: it did not.
I had no idea how little control farmers actually have over their own business. I didn't realize that having a strong work ethic and being intensely dedicated to your goal could still leave you feeling so defeated and exhausted at the end of the day with very little to show for it.
What is it like being a dairy farmer
I wish someone would have told me that the early mornings and long days don't end. When you cannot afford hired labor, or someone is sick, the work load remains the same and you stretch yourself thin covering the gap. You won't realize how fast 40 hours go by and it's only Wednesday. Also, it doesn't even matter that it's Wednesday because your next day off is a rain day and rain days only mean less work, not no work.
I wish someone would have told me that I needed to care about the weather, and not just what it's doing today but the 10 day and beyond, and the fact that what happens in the winter effects how busy my spring will be when nothing has even happened yet. I didn't realize my hands would callous like my dad's, I would actually wear out a pair of boots, and feel completely comfortable pulling dried manure out of my hair while talking to a neighbor at the grocery store.
My savings is in land and buildings rather than a bank account and I'm building my "retirement", as long as someone is willing to pay what I think it's worth when that day comes. And can someone please tell me how to make alcohol and itemized business expense? I wish someone would have told me that it's more about heart, taking risk and intuition than following a business plan on paper.
Why do farmers do it
Truth is though, if I had the choice again and knew all of that shit above, I'd still agree to being here. It's a give and take life; you take the good with the bad, hold on and hope you're stronger than you thought and if not then add more liquor until you are.
Those never ending early mornings show you the best part of the day. Vacations don't happen as often as you'd like, or last as long as you'd like, but they feel a bit more special because you know how rare they are and how hard you worked to make it happen.
Being a dairy farmer is more than just milking a few cows. It's sneaking 20 minutes of calf cuddles while simultaneously hiding from your children who are fighting. It's skipping out on events you don't really want to go to and blaming it on the cows. It includes loading the kids into the truck to deliver dinner to the field and spending a few minutes with a parent whose been gone for 12 hours with another 3 to go. It's marriage counseling when you work with your partner, and it's free!
It's not for everyone, I didn't even realize it was for me, but it's the path I was suppose to take. What's your job like?