For the love of a cow

Sometimes I feel that people who don’t grow up on dairy farms don’t really understand me. I often find myself trying to explain my life to them, and I’m not always sure how. Even though I am a writer, I cannot always find the words. The only way I can ever really think to explain it is that my cows are my life, they mean everything to me, and everything I do I do because I love them. That in itself is always why when I hear people say what I do is cruel or inhuman I feel the need to speak up and say no. I always tell them when this happens that the easiest way to learn the truth is to find an actual local farmer and ask if you can visit the farm. I’m not sure if all farmers feel the same way as I do, in fact I’m sure there are some out there that don’t, but I do know most farmers are motivated by love for the animals they care for.

Because all farmers do is actually care for their cows, not harm them. Cows became domesticated millions of years ago; like a cat or a dog that lives in the house they would not be able to survive on their own. Farmers are out there sometimes over twelve hours a day or more to make sure the cows are safe, healthy and happy. Every day is devoted to the cows. Not that there aren’t some bad days. I can’t even count the number of times I have left the barn just mentally or physically exhausted and wanting to be home or crying because something didn’t go right or because a cow accidentally hurt me in some way. I’ve even heard my dad on his worst days saying he doesn’t know why he keeps doing this. I never tell him I know the exact reason why; it’s for the love of the cows.

Now I have never had a boyfriend. I have never seen the need. But that doesn’t mean I don’t know what it’s like to be in love. I’ve just had yet to experience it with a human that is not a friend or part of my family . But I know what it is to love a cow more than anything else, including myself. I’ve been showing cows and working on the farm for almost a third of my life. I know what it’s like to feel the ups and downs of life, especially since there’s more of that on a dairy farm than probably anywhere else in the world. I can’t tell you how many days I’ve had where the barn was my only sanctuary, and I felt like the cows were the only ones that understood me. And I can’t tell you how much it hurt to see any of them suffer even if they weren’t my own special show cow, because there are no words to describe that. The worst days of my life have often included the words “there’s nothing more that can be done.” And there are no words to describe how much those words can rip your heart out.

Throughout my life I have often found my best friends in my cows. I understand that people who don’t know me, and who’ve never lived or will never live the life I do will never understand that. And I feel sorry for them, because they will never know this love that I do. Maybe someday I will be like my dad, with days where I question why I keep on doing what I do. But then again maybe not, because I know the answer to that question is love. Everything I do is done for love, the love of a cow.

This is my truth

By now it seems that the whole world knows about the animal abuse discovered at Fair Oaks Farm. I myself have been waiting to write my thoughts out on here because I was waiting to get all the facts.

And the facts as much as I know them are these: yes, the abuse did happen. And the people who did it were fired. The manager sent out another video apologizing for not seeing it sooner and detailing the steps the farm will be taking now. But the other facts are that ARM watched this abuse happen for months and all they did was film it. They talked about on the farm they were supposed to see something and say something, but they didn’t report it for MONTHS.

So since both of these videos have appeared animal activists have renewed their fight against the dairy industry that they would have everyone believe is cruel although many of them have never set foot in a dairy farm in their lives. There are bad people everywhere and in every business. Dairy farming is no exception to that. Even on my small dairy farm where like five people work we’ve had people who were employed by us abuse our cows. But they no longer work for us because like most dairy farms abusing our animals is not what we do.

Well this, this is my truth and the truth of at least 97% of dairy farmers as far as I know. My cows are the most important things in my whole life. I owe everything I am to them. I think about every single one of them every day, whether dead or alive. And yes some have died because there was absolutely nothing left for us to do for them. No day goes by where it doesn’t hurt.

People would like others to think that farmers do everything for profit. I’ve done my research and I’ve seen it in my own life. I’ve said this in other posts, but the milk price has dropped 18% since 2014. When we sell calves to other farms when we don’t have much room left, we barely get $10. One we sold recently we got like $4 for. Dairy farming might be the least profitable industry in America these days. But that doesn’t stop us.

We don’t do it for the money. We do it for the cows. The cows that we love with all of our hearts and that we would never think of trying to hurt. The truth is that milking cows that activists think is so bad takes like ten minutes out of their day and is like a breast pump for human women. They give so much milk every day that it is too much for one calf to drink and often times by the end of the day it drips out of their udders and makes them uncomfortable.

When cows have calves, they are some of the worst and best mothers I have ever seen. I’ve seen cows give birth and never look at them again, even if the calf is right in front of her. I’ve also seen others take over and clean up the calf even if it’s not theirs. And the fact is that cows weigh over a thousand pounds by the time they have their first calf. Often cows will lay sideways or in weird positions. If a calf was left close by they would easily be squashed or hurt by the end of the day. So when we move the calf for their safety it’s often just to the end of the barn, not that far away from the mom.

Everything dairy farmers do is for their cows. Before you go and attack someone’s livelihood make sure you know exactly what you’re talking about. Don’t believe everything you read or see on the Internet if they’ve never set foot on a farm either. Talk to your local farmers. Every single farmer I know would be more than willing to give you a tour of their barns that they’re in more often then their house. They will show you everything they do and answer any questions that you have. Then and only then once you know the real, full, honest truth from both sides then you can choose which side to take. But until then do not try to tell me what I do is wrong or that I hurt the cows that mean more to me than my own life. Because I will never stop loving them and I will never stop doing what I do because I know it’s the right thing for the cows and that they wouldn’t survive without us. And that is my truth.

Shame on you

You would think by now I would learn not to comment on posts on Facebook where people are just going to respond and say what I do for a living is terrible, but it seems I haven’t learned. Well today someone said shame on you to me for doing nothing but loving and treating my cows right. And for some reason it’s sticking with me. Because I am not and never will be ashamed of what I do. Nothing will ever convince me the last seven years of my life were wrong and shameful. But if love is shameful then fine, shame on me. If meeting my first cow and having an instant connection so much that she has been my best friend for the last seven years is shameful, then fine, shame on me. If sitting next to a dying nine month old cow that should still have been alive today except for the accident that no one could control, at fourteen years old, and realizing that I was never going to see her again after that night, and therefore having to grow up and become an adult at fourteen years old is shameful, then yeah shame on me. If being told I’m much more mature than any other kid my age, and having the only reason for it being because I learned to be responsible and take care of something other than myself because I had my cows is shameful, then fine shame on me. If having my first panic attack of my life because I thought one of my cows was going to run into the road is shameful, then yup shame on me. If seeing a calf be born dead and see the mother get worse and worse and then get better a bit only to get worse again and then we lose her, and because of this watching and needing updates and watching and checking on my cows every single time they’re pregnant because I can’t let it happen again is shameful, then shame on me. If having one of my cows do a backflip and fall over her head and not be able to breathe until I know whether or not she’s going to be ok, and then going to hide and cry in the bathroom in both relief and horror after what just happened is shameful, then shame on me. If having a heifer slip and fall on my ankle and almost break it, if not breaking it a little and going back into the barn after knowing I could walk on it and feeding the heifers because they needed it and it was time to feed them and never actually getting it checked out, resulting in me walking with a heavier foot fall and having my ankle hurt every time it’s humid, but not really caring because I’m used to it now is shameful, then shame on me. If losing a calf after only nine days, or after one day and having to go somewhere and pretend like everything is normal when it’s really not but it’s a feeling that can’t be put into words is shameful then shame on me. If losing a cow after five and a half years and months later still walking into the barn and feeling like there’s a hole in the world where she should be is shameful, then shame on me. If time and time again I found myself worrying about one or another of my cows for a different reason or another no matter what the results end up being is shameful, then shame on me. If you’ve never felt the love of a cow, if you’ve never had the experience of sitting down next to a cow and having them turn and their head and fall asleep on you, with both of you feeling absolutely safe and at peace and can sit there for hours, then you don’t know what you’re missing. If anything mentioned above seems shameful to you, then you will not understand ever and I’m sorry for you. You may say shame on me, but I will never be ashamed to love a cow.

On Growing Up, Responsibility, and Family

So a few days ago there was a video on Facebook that was this guy saying a whole bunch of wrong things about 4-H and FFA, and on Facebook I wrote a response that didn’t connect to the video so he wouldn’t get the publicity he wanted so I thought I should put it on here too. All my Facebook friends have already seen this, but you’re always welcome to read it again if you want to, and if you’re not my friend on Facebook but read this blog of course I encourage you to read it, especially if you don’t know much about 4-H and FFA.

Ok I know most of my agricultural friends have seen the video of the man saying a bunch of rather ignorant things about 4-H and FFA that was so out there it was obviously for attention and nothing else, but for those who haven’t it’s honestly not even worth the watch especially since it’s just what he and the page wants. This is why I’m posting my thoughts like this so it doesn’t actually connect to the video and it doesn’t fully give the wanted publicity. The first thing is that I have been a member of 4-H since the third grade but only got into the animal section seven years ago. And I don’t know but I don’t think I’ve been a victim of child abuse, and I’m pretty stinking sure I’m not about to go out and be a serial killer. Also 4-H and FFA are in no way the same organization, and livestock is not all either of these organizations that have changed my life for the better are about. I was an active FFA member for my last few years of high school and I just aged out of 4-H barely a week and a half ago. I know for a fact I have not spent these last few amazing, dare I say best years of my life, learning to treat animals as objects. If anything I learned to treat them as my family. I learned responsibility, communication, I FINALLY learned how to actually talk to people (those who knew me at a young age know that that wasn’t my strongest suit for a long time). I learned love, I learned hard work, I learned heartbreak, and that things can always look better when the sun comes up. FFA and 4-H are basically the things that taught me how to be a responsible adult and helped lead me to a life I’m proud to live, even though there are plenty of hard times and even though I’m only nineteen and basically still a kid in many aspects I’ve already lost four of my cows who are basically my family in every way except for that they’re not human. This is my life and it always saddens me when I see people out there who don’t understand and never will understand or think anything except for that it has to be wrong because it’s what they believe or say that it’s wrong because they’re looking for attention. But as long as I can even though most don’t listen I will keep spreading my truth that I know because I’ve lived it, and I will keep farming as long as I can because I know it’s right and it’s what I love to do. Thanks to everyone who bothered to read this full thing especially if you haven’t seen the video and have no idea what I’m talking about. Much love to you all ❤️❤️

Why Dairy Farming Is Important

I realize seeing as this was really the main point of starting this blog, I probably should’ve had this been my first blog post, but I didn’t think of it at the time. Lately I’ve seen all the problems the dairy industry has been having due to just poor circumstances and the times we’re living in. But this doesn’t mean that the dairy industry will die out. It just means that we will deal with hardships, and we will come back stronger. But all the negative media we get doesn’t help at all. I just read a story yesterday about someone who wasn’t a part of the industry not quite understanding what a farmer was trying to do, and the farmer lost three cows because of it. I’ve also heard of many accounts from people who just really don’t understand that not just dairy farms, but every single farm in the world help to bring food and sustain the world who’s population is now almost exceeding 7,000, 000. So here’s just a few reasons why dairy farming is important, and why if it did fade away we would all have a very big problem.

1. No Farmers No Food

I’m sure you’ve all heard the saying at least once in your life, “No Farmers, No Food”. Well I’m here to tell you that this is more true than most anything else when it comes to farming. Pretty much anything a person eats has come from some type of farm. Farming isn’t just the animals, though obviously that’s where the milk and meat comes from, but even dairy farmers plant crops that sustain others that don’t eat those things. Also there are so many things in the world that have milk in them, or are made from milk, or are related to milk that a lot of people don’t realize.

2. Responsibility

Growing up on a farm helps many kids all around the world to learn how to be responsible for something besides themselves from an early age. Since I’ve started on my family dairy farm I’ve had many people come up to me over the years and tell me I am very mature for my age, and I know for a fact that if I hadn’t started taking care of my own cows I would never ever have heard that. Over the years my cows have become more than cows, they are basically family, and if I had never started with them I would be a much different person, and I have no idea where I’d be today.

3. Public Interest

Even with all the negative media surrounding the dairy industry, it’s one of the best parts of the county fair that I go to every summer when someone who doesn’t know much about cows comes up and starts asking about them, because they genuinely want to know more. There are those out there that are still and always will be interested in dairy cows and how the farm works, even though they don’t do anything with farming themselves, and sometimes that is refreshing.

4. Jobs

Not just dairy farming, but all of the farms in the US employ a good percentage of people. I’m not sure of the exact number so I’m not going to say an exact percentage, but I do know that at least where I live if farms went away most of the community would be stuck with no job and without an ability to get another because they’ve been farming all their lives and they don’t know how to do anything else.

5. A Common Cause

When farming is a normal and most common thing in a community it gives people a common cause to help and protect it. Just a few years ago when I was in high school and a part of the FFA, the FFA leader left and then the school almost got rid of it along with all of the agriculture classes offered. But the community got together and stopped it in every way that they could, and we got a different FFA leader. With the community mostly farms it just didn’t make sense not to have agriculture classes in the school, which is what most of the community thought.

6. ** We Take Care of Our Cows **

I starred this one because it is the most important point I have, especially with all of the negative media saying the opposite. Dairy farming gets a bad reputation from those few factory or industrial large farms that get the videos of them on the internet of them mistreating their cows. But those are few and far between. More often than the factory farms are the family farms, which love their cows more than themselves, and will do everything in their power to give them as much of a happy and comfortable life that they can and to help them when they’re hurt or sick. Just a few months ago one of the family farms I know caught on fire. As soon as the farmers realized they were running into the flames to save the cows, and one even punched a fire fighter when he tried to tell her she couldn’t go back in there. There was also a chance of them getting hurt or electrocuted, (they think it possibly got struck by lightning), which is why they couldn’t go back in. But it was a small fire and they got it out, only losing a few in the process. The farm is back up and running now, and the rest of their cows are fine.

This is just one of the many stories I could tell of farmers doing everything they could for their cows, not thinking about themselves at all. There are also many other points I could make about why dairy farming is important and will never be gone, (at least not while I have anything to say about it), but I will leave these six points here for now. I might add more later in a different post, but who knows. And this is one of the most important messages I want to portray with this blog, and a message I think the world needs right now. No one will ever be able to convince me otherwise about any of these points because I believe in them full-heartedly, and I believe that when you believe in something you fight for it. I am also a feminist, along with a believer in rights for the LGBTQ community (not quite sure what to call that), so there are many things I believe in, but I believe in the dairy industry most of all. And I know when you believe in something, you fight for it no matter what.

“I, for one, am actually still incredibly idealistic, and I still can credibly or very strongly believe that you have to keep fighting for what you believe in, because it’s only when you stop that you’ve truly lost.” Vanessa Kerry