Agriculture

October 29, 2014 at 8:00 am

A Day in the Life of a Dairy Farmer

straight from the farmers mouth

Straight From the Farmer’s Mouth shares stories about farming as told by farmers. Plucked from the countless blogs tirelessly kept by the people who grow and make our food, this series shows food from the other side of the table. 

I often get asked: “Well what do you do all day? ” So I thought it was overdue that I laid out what HAS to be done EVERYDAY on our farm. Dairy Farming is a 365 day a year job, we don’t get to take sick days or vacations and some jobs have to be done everyday. So here is a look at what our day really looks like.

4:00 am: The alarm clock goes off and the two people doing morning chores are getting ready to head out to the barn. Usually a quick breakfast and throw on some clothes through blurry eyes!

4:30 am: While one person is rinsing the milker and getting the parlor set up, the other is “waking” up the cows and getting them into the holding pen.

4:45 am: Milking Starts. While all the cows are in the holding pen all the alleys are scraped clean.

5:00 am: After scraping, all the feeding for the cows is done; alfalfa hay at the stanchions and corn silage from the silo pack. Feeding is also done at the special care pen and the bedded area is also cleaned for that pen.

5:30 am: The springers get fed and their bedded area is also cleaned. Also take a few minutes just to observe everyone for calving.

5:45 am: Whoever was feeding and doing the outside chores is usually done by now and joins whoever is milking in the parlor. We milk in a double three side open. So each cow comes in and leaves individually. They each are thoroughly cleaned, the milker is attached and it takes on average about 6 minutes each. While they are milking we ration a custom mix grain for each cow. Once the milker comes off they are dipped with a post dip to protect their teats during the day and let out for breakfast. We are milking at about our maximum capacity of over 95 cows and milking alone is taking a solid 3 hours.

7:45 am: Milking is finished up. The machines are rinsed and hung up to wash. While one person is washing the milker the other shuts up the parlor and pitches the hay back into the cows . Then goes to feed the calves. Milk to the youngest babies in bottles and buckets to the older ones on milk. Grain and hay is fed to the older calves in the calf barn, up to about 14 months old. **I had to update this because somehow I forgot my “favorite” chore. Washing calf buckets, pretty much doing the dishes for over a dozen people every day, twice a day. Ugh, yea it’s my excuse for the dirty dishes in my sink!** The horses, chickens and cats are also fed.

8:15 am: The parlor is picked up and scooped out, 95 cows make quite a mess in 3 hours with manure and grain. Then we wash the whole parlor with a pressure washer so it’s ready for milking in the afternoon.

8:45 am: After the parlor is clean and most of the cows seem to be done with their breakfast they are let out to the pasture. We are completely done with morning chores and back in the house for second breakfast. The towels we use to clean the cows during milking have to go into the washing machine.

So by 9:00 am we’ve put in a solid 4 hours (at least) of work and most people are just starting their day! So the first shift is done and usually whoever milked in the morning can sneak in a little nap, but not always. So from 9am to 3:30pm we have to feed the heifers and dry cows, rotate fences for grazing, manage the manure, catch any cows to breed and finish washing the milk towels.  This is also “free time”,  where we work on weekly projects and things that have to be done at least once a week: completely cleaning the calf barns, striping out the springer pen, deep cleaning the parlor. Of course we have no problem filling this time; there’s always repairs to be made, cows or heifers that get out, cows that need assistance calving or doctored. Which of course any of that can occurred during chore time as well!

12:30 pm: We sneak in time for lunch together as a family. Usually the only time of the day we are all in one spot at the same time.

After lunch it’s back to our “free time” work.

3:30 pm: We try to finish whatever we were working on and grab a little break, for a quick snack and refuel.

4:00 pm: at least two, but usually all four of us (or at least three, I am usually a little slower out with the little farmers) are headed back out to the barn for evening chores. The cows are brought into the holding pen to wait their turn to be milked. The milker is rinsed and the parlor is again set up for milking.

4:15pm: While the cows are in the holding pen the alleys are scraped again and the free stalls are bedded with sawdust. The special care pen is cleaned and bedded with fresh sawdust. The springers are fed, their bedded area is pitched clean and bedded with fresh straw.

4:30 pm: Milking has begun. And we are again feeding alfalfa and corn silage. This also seems to be the time we try to finish anything that didn’t get done during the day.

5:00 pm: By now we’ve usually finished on the Ladies side and head to take care of the calves. They get fed milk, grain and hay according to their age. We calve year round, so the number varies but there is usually about 60 calves to care for in this age range. With about 6-10 on milk. The littlest ones in the nursery get a fresh bed of straw.

6:00 pm: We are usually finished with all the “extra” chores and milking is all that is left to complete. Two people usually finish, but some nights, like Wednesday when the guys have fire drill, one of us finishes.

7:30 pm: We are done milking. The machines are again rinsed and hung up to wash. The parlor is closed up and tidied up. Feed is pushed back in to the cows and the springer barn is double checked for any action. The milker is then washed and turned off.

8:00 pm: The driveway gate is closed in case of any late night escapees. And we take our short commute (walk) back home.

So with morning and evening chores and what has to be done during the day there is a solid 9 hours of work that HAS to be done everyday. The cows don’t take a day off from milking and everybody has to be fed. As a family farm we have no employees, so all the day’s work is accomplished by the four of us. It can and has been done by one when situations arise because it HAS to get done. So that’s a look at our typical day.

So what did you do today?

This article was originally published on The Farmer’s Daughter.

-Darleen Sichley