Hello and happy Friday! I’ve been at the beach for nearly a week and I’m still not sunburned. This is definitely some sort of record!
Not that there isn’t still time…
Anyway. For today’s Q&A, we’re chatting with someone who has a cooler job than I will ever have.
Lisa blogs at Cow Spots & Tales and she’s a dairy farmer! Pretty cool, huh? I wouldn’t know what to do with an udder if it smacked me in the face! I was curious about what life on the farm is like, and Lisa agreed to answer my questions. Enjoy!
Q: So you’re a real-life dairy farmer? How does that work?
A: Yup, a real life dairy farmer. We milk dairy cows on our farm, and then sell the milk to a cooperative milk processing plant (which is less than an hour from our farm). A milk truck with a refrigerated stainless steel tank on the back comes to pick up milk everyday.
Most of our milk gets made into cheese, but the plant also processes some butter and milk. I do know some dairies that are set up to process in a plant right on the farm, but most do sell their milk to a processor like we do.
Q: How many cows do you have? Are you a big farm or a small farm among “local” dairy farms?
A: Well, big and small have definitely become relative terms in dairy farming. I would say we are bigger than average for our area and even our state of Minnesota. But if we were in Califiornia, which is the largest dairy state, we would be smaller than average.
We milk right around 500 cows, plus we have all the young calves. All of our heifers from about 12-20 months old (kind of like our teen-age cows) go to a close by farm where there is more building and outdoor space for them. They come back to our home farm 1-2 months before they have their first calf, which is usually just before they turn 2 years old.
Q: You recently mentioned that you’re transitioning to farming as a full time job. Walk us thorough a day in the life!
A: Oh gosh, it seems like no day is quite the same! Depending on what we’re doing with field work or how many calves are born in a given day, things can vary a lot.
I’m usually up around 6:00, and that’s when I try to get in my morning run. My husband (who I call JR on my blog & sometimes in real life too) and I will talk through our thoughts for the day as we make the quick drive to the farm. We’ll check on the milking parlor first thing, where they’ve been milking cows since about 4:00 a.m. We have two shifts of people milking cows, with the first running about 4 am – 1 pm and the second about 4 pm – 1 am.
We’ll check in with our morning calf-feeder, and I’ll help move and feed new calves. Then we might start on anything from bedding pens with fresh straw to moving calves or vaccinating. We also need to ear-tag new calves and keep information on births, vaccinations, treatments, etc up to date in our computer software.
If any of our feeding or milking equipment breaks down, getting that fixed moves to top priority. By about 3:30 I’ll start getting water to our individual calf hutches and then pour milk bottles for evening feeding. All our hutches plus groups pens will get grain and hay, in addition to milk for calves 8 weeks or younger. Most nights we try to get home around 8:00, but it can certainly vary. We also raise hay and corn to feed our cows. It seems like either planting, chopping hay, or harvesting corn are never too far away!
Q: So I saw the movie City Slickers. I saw Billy Crystal shove his arm up that mama cow! Does that actually happen?
A: Well, I haven’t seen City Slickers in a long time, so I can’t remember exactly why Billy shoved his arm up the cow. But… here’s a true story. Every week on Tuesday at 11 a.m. our vet comes to the farm specifically to do pregnancy check. We’ve got a list of cows we expect are a certain number of days pregnant, and the vet puts his arm “up” the cow to determine if she’s carrying a calf and how far along she is.
Probably not super fun, but I can’t imagine it’s any worse than my yearly OBGYN appointment. 🙂
Q: Yikes. Um, I’m crossing my legs over here.
Anyway. You just ran the Fargo Marathon – congrats! How on earth do you balance running and marathon training with a highly physical job like dairy farming?
A: Hmm – good question! Honestly, I’ve just decided that running is something I like doing, and I need to make time for it. It’s easy to get bogged down in farm work, but running and racing reminds me that there is a world outside the farm. Even though running is physical and my job is physical, running also tends to relax me because I can just let my mind wander.
As for time management, I try to do my runs in the morning because otherwise they probably won’t happen. My weekend schedule is more variable, so I may do long runs mid-day Sunday, early morning Saturday, or anytime in between. I just try and figure out a time slot in advance so I can claim that time as my running time!
Q: Cheese is seriously one of my favorite foods. I love a creamy brie…but I’m not sure if it beats a delicious sharp cheddar. What’s your favorite type of cheese?
A: That is tough. I love both of the cheeses you mention, but I think the sharp cheddar wins for me. One of my favorite snacks is definitely a sharp cheddar with fruit and/or crackers and red wine if possible. 🙂 I’ve also become a fan of stronger cheeses in recent years and like various Swiss cheeses far more than I used to.
Thanks, Lisa! I’m totally up for sharing that cheddar and red wine if you ever come to NC!