You've probably heard that dairy farmers don't get a day off. There are always calves to feed and cows to milk. In fact, usually when I tell people my husband is a dairy farmer, they raise their eyebrows, shake their heads, and respond with something like, "I don't pity you." or "I bet you never get a vacation."
Yes, dairy farming is hard work, but it's also very rewarding. I came across a quotation in a magazine recently that said, "Dairy Farming. Has there ever been a business more about family?" One of the best things about dairy farming is that family is engrained in every single thing we do. This is especially evident on Christmas morning.
What's a typical Christmas morning on the dairy farm like? There are still morning chores to be done. Our cows are milked three times a day, at 5am, 1pm and 8pm. Before Christmas can officially begin, the cows go through the parlor for their morning milking. While that is happening, the cows and heifers also get their morning feed. All of our cow feed is a rationed formula. It goes into a large mixer and is then sent up a conveyer belt into the barn (see our Facebook Album, "What Do Cows Eat?" for more on this topic.) In addition to the cows, feed is also mixed for the heifers (young females that haven't calved yet.) This process takes about two hours. During this time, the calves are also being fed their morning milk.
How many people does all of this take? Ideally, there is one person in the milking parlor, one person moving cows into the parlor, one person making cow feed, and two people feeding calves. On holidays, a great deal of this work falls onto our family, so our employees can enjoy some time off. See why dairy farming is a family affair? We must work together to ensure that all of the jobs get done and that our business runs as a smooth as possible.
Any other day, there will be jobs found and hands kept busy. On Christmas, however, we do chores and spend most of the rest of the day together as a family. This year, Diane hosted a wonderful noontime meal at her house, and we enjoyed fellowship with each other. Yes, dairy farming is a lot of work, but it also strengthens bonds as family, as we work side-by-side to care for our cows and earn a living.
Diane grew up on a dairy farm, and for 28 years, her and Allen have owned and operated our family farm.
Fourth generation of Hartschuhs to be involved with dairy farming. Left to right: Rose, Greg, Jason, Brian, Emily.