The Hardest Part

Farming has been a part of my life for almost half of it by now. I can’t count the numerous hours I have spent among the dairy cows in the barn taking care of them, or the countless times I have agvocated on social media or on this blog. I can’t imagine myself ever doing anything different. It’s definitely not the only thing that I do, or will do with my life when I graduate college, but I can’t imagine it ever not being a part of my life anymore. Even with the bad days and the hard times, it is always still worth it, for the cows much more than for me.

But with all that, comes like I just mentioned, the hard times. The hardest part about farming is the days when there’s nothing more that can be done. It’s the days when something comes out of the blue that couldn’t be seen or guessed, and suddenly the worst happens. It’s happened plenty of times over the years, and the last time was just a few days ago.

About six years ago now I experienced my first cow dying. It was on Halloween, 2013, and it was a Jersey, along with being my first Jersey. If you’ve been following my blog or you know me, you definitely know this already. Recently another one of my cows who is a half Holstein, half Jersey was due to have her calf. She had a great, happy, bouncy Jersey a week and a half earlier than she was supposed to. For the first day I was nervous, because normally that early leads to a bunch of problems in either the mom or the calf. But for the first few days, everything was completely fine. Which is probably why this hurts so much.

Her name was Jamey. I loved her the moment I met her a few days after she was born. There was no reason to believe that anything was wrong or would’ve been wrong by the end of the week. She was just a normal, bouncy calf. Impressively she even drank her milk perfectly, and drank a full bottle. We don’t know and once again like so many times before will probably never know for sure, but that right there could’ve been the problem.

Maybe it was my fault. Maybe it was someone else’s fault. Maybe it was nobody’s fault. It was more likely nobody’s fault, but I can’t help but feel like it was mine. I always do a little bit.

Something calves can get some time is bloat. I don’t know if that’s the correct term for it, or if it’s supposed to be they got bloated or what it is exactly. But either way when calves get bloated, something that is done is to give them a bit of Dawn dish soap, and walk them around in the barn. It’s happened to many of our calves before, there was no reason to think it would’ve been anything different. Maybe it was because she was a week and a half early. It was most likely that, and because something inside was probably not formed correctly or something along those lines. Something we could never have predicted or known about until it was too late.

As you might have been able to guess by now, Jamey got bloated. Only we didn’t catch it in time, or because of being a week and a half early there was a bigger problem and we didn’t know. That’s the worst part about all of this, is we didn’t know.

Jamey didn’t make it. Eight days of finally having something happy involving a Jersey in October after six years, and now it’s worse.

This is the hardest part about being a dairy farmer. I always know that someone really doesn’t know what it’s like to be a dairy farmer when they try to tell me that farmers only care about profit, and they don’t actually give a crap about the cows themselves. Oh how wrong that statement is.

I only knew Jamey for eight days, and it still feels like my heart has ripped from my chest. Three days later and I can still hardly write this without crying or wanting to cry. Things like this should never happen, and yet things like this are so unexpected and unable to be caught or prepared for that it doesn’t help to say that. The worst lesson to learn about farming is the terror at any cow getting sick, and the heartbreak when they’re gone. More than that, farmers more than anyone really know what it means to have to learn to move on. And even after an eight day old calf comes into your life and passes, that’s still one of the hardest things to do.

What it Means to Me/My Story Part 4

That following year Bingo had her first calf, that happened to be another one like Martha meaning she’s a half Jersey and half Holstein, but this time she was a dark brown so this time we decided she was a Jersey and kept her and I named her Gravity. I don’t really know why I named her this I just thought it was a cool name, which it is. Lilly also had her first calf which I named Lydia. I always thought this one was kind of funny because I’m not sure if it’s a thing most farms do really or if it’s just ours that usually does it, but normally mother cows and their calves are supposed to have names starting with the same letter and this was the first time I’d ever followed that rule. I haven’t done it since either which is why I think that was a funny coincidence. It also became time then for Jasmine’s first calf which came out looking almost exactly like Katy which was amazing for me, and I named her Sammy. Somewhere along the way Katy also had a boy calf that looked like her, but we sold him and I don’t fully remember when that was so I threw it in right now because I was thinking about it.

But anyway this was during my senior year of high school so with everything else ending that year I was immensely glad that I had been born at the right time that I was able to still have one more year in 4-H after this year. But anyway that year was also an exciting one because it was the first year I ever got a Grand Champion with my Sammy. It was still super awesome even though the only reason she got it was the fact that she was the only Lineback there, but of course that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t have gotten it anyway, just like with Holly the year before. Also this year one of my neighboring friends’s cow had a calf in the middle of the barn which was super fun to sit and watch.

But also besides the fair, a few months before it Eclipse had her third calf which was super pretty with a number seven on her face. For a few days she was perfectly nice and looked completely normal, but nine days later she suddenly wasn’t drinking her milk and passed away. We still don’t know what happened there, we can only assume that there was some inside problem that we didn’t know about, like something didn’t develop right and it just wasn’t obvious.

But anyway the last full day of the fair that year Annabeth had her second calf, Charlie. The baby that was born at the fair was also a Milking Shorthorn, so we knew they would be in the same class at the fair the next year (which they were) so that was cool. So already by the end of the fair we had two calves planned for the next year, Charlie and Sammy because she was small and young enough. But also this year was just last year and it was my first year of college. Of course I went back and forth plenty of times during the year and I did my best to work with them when I could, but I didn’t get to practice as much as I would’ve liked. That turned out to be okay though, because it also turned out to be the year of the most well behaved calves I’d ever had since Katy. Besides Sammy and Charlie, Martha had her first calf, and to our surprise it turns out being half Jersey she was able to have a full Jersey. Well she was 75% Jersey anyway but she looked like a normal Jersey and we named her Hazel (after Hazelnut). Primmy also had another calf, the first one we ever kept, and we named her Rory.

During this year we managed to have a few more Lineback heifer calves born, but they all came out looking slightly funky to us. We did later find out that there were two types of Linebacks, Witrick and Gloucester, and the few weird ones we’d been having were Gloucester. We’d never seen them before so that’s why we weren’t used to them. Katy had her next calf, which I named Hope. Hope turned out to be her last calf because after her we tried to breed her again many times, and we decided just recently to stop trying because it wasn’t working. So Katy is now known as a pet cow, which I don’t think is a real thing in other places but it’s Katy so for us it is. Holly had her first calf too, but instead of a Lineback it came out looking like Gravity, but we kept her and named her Lindsey. The other calf that we had in this last year was out of Eclipse, (which would end up being her last one), and we named her Faith. She also looked like Rory, but since her line on her back wasn’t even we decided to leave her home instead of taking her to the fair. Of course now I wish I had.

Well that’s it. That’s my story, the rest I’ve already blogged about, and you already know it. I never really said fully what dairy farming means to me, but I hope after my four part story you understand without me spelling it out. Thanks so much for reading through it all, and of course I’ll end up blogging about what comes next so you’ll find out as it goes, just like I will.

What it Means to Me/My Story Part 3

Yesterday I ended with my first year as a Junior Superintendent so today I’m going to begin with a few stories of what happened that year. First off one of our main Junior Superintendent duties is/was collecting cans at nighttime when the fair was shutting down. One of these nights we had a man go running past us yelling “curse this fatness!” It was super random and funny so I still remember it. Other things that happened that year is that there was a long power outage that lasted pretty much all night and there was a fight on the midway causing us to lock down the barn for a while. So yeah, that was an interesting year.

Moving on to after the fair, it came time for Acorn to have her baby. Of course not having any major problems before this I was very excited. But what I didn’t know at the time was that the one we bred her to was related to her, because the other farmers weren’t very organized when it came to that. The baby was born dead, and a few weeks later Acorn was gone too. It was three years after Hazelnut, and since Acorn came to help me with dealing with that and it being my second time something like this happened it almost hurt worse this time.

Back a few months before that we got another Lineback cow at the same auction we got Annabeth from and we named this one Holly. Also during this year Annabeth had her first calf that we named Rey and Eclipse had her second baby that we named Neptune. Along with those three my sister decided that year to claim a Holstein and have me show her at the fair which she named Noel. A few months after she was born she got bloated which farmers can always fix by having the calf swallow dawn dish soap and with Noel being the first one I’d ever seen that happen to, from that day on her name became Bubbles. If that name sounds familiar it’s because a few posts ago I had the large Mishaps and Mayhem post that was mostly about her, especially since she almost broke my ankle. That fair year the most exciting thing was that Holly got Reserve Grand Champion Lineback in both shows, mainly because there was only two Linebacks that year but either way it was cool. I really don’t know how many posts this is going to turn into but it keeps getting really long and I guess I am going through seven years of my life so I guess that’s what happens.

What it Means to Me/My Story Part 2

Yesterday I ended with Hazelnut’s passing and how that set up so many other things that have happened since. So to continue with my story a few days later a neighboring farm offered us another Jersey which we went and saw and then got that weekend, and I named her Acorn. And even though it was still very soon after it happened Acorn did help to make it a bit better. A little while after that, with a few months of practicing with Annabeth and Acorn I decided to claim another of the family farm’s Holsteins, mainly because a Holstein that was born at the time that I was helping to feed as I got more involved on the farm reminded me of a dog. So I registered her in my name, and I named her Bingo. During this time I also had begun to help feed the heifers and sometimes scrape off the floor if it got dirty when the cows came in before milking time. With all of this happening it gave me a bit less time to work with my show cows, but I made it work.

Eventually we had to tell the family that gave us Hazelnut that she’d died, and they felt so bad that they let us have another one of their Jerseys for free. This one I names Lilly, and suddenly I had four show cows to bring to the fair that year, which is more than I’d ever had before. It was also my first fair that I ever got any big prizes in. Annabeth won Reserve Grand Champion Milking Shorthorn that year, and it was the first time that had ever happened for me, which was really exciting. So exciting in fact that I honestly don’t remember much else that happened that year.

Also during this time my other cows were getting older and it was time for them to start having calves. Unfortunately it turns out that Katy was born with or possibly developed over time a hormone problem, meaning we had to breed her nine times before she had her first calf. So then Jasmine was born, a fully white lineback which I thought was interesting. This was in November, and a few months later in March Eclipse had her first calf, Martha. Martha was a half Jersey and half Holstein, and usually our farm doesn’t keep those but we did for the first time. Primmy also had one like that, but we sold her calf to a farm close by, but I don’t really remember why we got rid of that one but kept Martha. So with these two in mind, along with Lilly still being of a small size, these three went with me to the fair that year. Nothing as exciting as the year before happened that year prize wise, but it was my first year as a Junior Superintendent, which I think I’ve mentioned before but in case I haven’t it just means that I helped the adults take care of the barn during the week, and I got to sleep in the barn. There were many stories that happened during that time, but I already feel that this post is going on really long, so I will begin part three with that tomorrow.

What it Means to Me/My Story

Mainly because I can’t think of anything else to write about today I decided to just go with a bit about what dairy farming means to me, but it might possibly turn into a rant because I don’t really know what I’m about to write…

So I probably have mentioned this before but I really got into dairy farming when I was in the eighth grade. It started the summer before when we stopped by the County Fair that would become my home for the next seven years of my life and I saw a few lineback cows that I believe I have also mentioned a few posts before. So a few months after that in February Katy was born and you could very easily say that my life was changed forever. Suddenly I was in the barn all the time with her, walking everywhere and going anywhere around the yard that we possibly could. Of course this was so long ago that there are many stories I could go into that I might not fully remember so I can’t really go into them.

But anyway after that first year and the first time I had a fair week and I loved it so much I decided to try to find more cows. Of course having a family farm full of Holsteins, they were what came next. This idea came to me shortly at the end of the fair, so of course August came next and a few weeks later Primrose was born. We shortened it down to Primmy after a while especially when she was bad, which when it came to walking and showing she was, and eventually we had to decide she just wasn’t a show cow and ended up not bringing her along to the fair the next time. But it was okay because there was still Katy and a few months later in October another Holstein was born that I decided I wanted to show, Eclipse (yes that Eclipse). So she joined my show cow group and she actually could figure out how to do it and became my third cow but my second show cow. Then one of my mom’s friends that she works with who was also a dairy farmer with a farm full of Jerseys which they sold to us. So then I had Hazelnut, my third show cow.

With those four cows/three show cows we went to the second fair of my life, which was as good as the first time. Once again there was many adventures that I can’t fully go into again because it was so long ago (maybe I have too much information in my head I don’t really know haha). Then August came again and we found out about a cow auction at a different county fair close by, and though it was unplanned we came home with my first Milking Shorthorn, Annabeth.

After all of this it was about the end of 2013, October specifically, and then through no fault of anyone in the barn, we lost Hazelnut. No one really knows what happened, only that we came in and she was lying on the floor. It was the day before Halloween and the next day she was gone. It was the first time anyone or anything close to me had died. I’ve been lucky in the aspect that I never lost a human close to me, and until recently I hadn’t lost a house dog or cat that I could remember. So this turned out to be an actually very important thing for me, even though it was terrible and I’ll never forget it until the day that I die. But I know now that it happened for a reason, because if it hadn’t so many things that have happened since probably wouldn’t have, and I know that God knew that. It might’ve taken me six or seven years to realize this, but I think that’s okay and that it might’ve had to happen that way. But anyway I feel like I’ve been going on about this a long time so I’m going to stop now, and just say that part two comes tomorrow.

On Dairy Breeds

What many people don’t know if they aren’t involved in the dairy industry, well really in the showing part of the dairy industry, is that there are many different breeds of dairy cows. For a while there were six well known ones, those being Holstein, Jersey, Milking Shorthorn, Brown Swiss, Ayrshire, and Guernsey. Just recently they’ve added Lineback and sometimes even Dutch Belt to the mix.

Each breed has some different quality that defines them among the rest. Holstein of course are the most well known, them being the most common black and white cows. Jerseys are the second most well known. They’re the second most common cow as far as I know, and they’re also the smaller brown ones. I also think they’re the smallest cow as far as I know, but don’t anyone quote me on that. I do know that they have some of the highest butterfat in their milk. This mainly means that the milk is thicker and also the best for making ice cream and cheese. Guernseys are another one with high butterfat, but I’m afraid that’s all I really know about them besides the fact that they are yellowish and white.

Besides those few the only ones I really know the most about are Milking Shorthorns and Linebacks, them being the cows I have the most of. Milking Shorthorns are typically red mostly all over, but sometimes they can also be white which I actually find fascinating, mainly because I’ve never seen one. Then there all the Linebacks. I’ve mentioned them a few times, and even though I’ve known about them and had them for around six years now they’re still amazing to me. Linebacks can be red, or black, or completely white, and sometimes they have spotted sides, or they can have fully colored sides. The only thing they really need to be qualified as a Lineback is a white line from their neck area to their tail. This is the main reason why they’re all so different and why they are by far my favorite breed of cow.

Well that’s a bit about the different dairy cow breeds, and if you want to know more I would suggest googling them, or visiting your local county fair if you have one and find some farmers with some of the other breeds that can tell you more about the ones I don’t know much about.