Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Our crazy schedule

If you're up and at 'em and scrolling through your Twitter timeline anywhere between 3-6am, there's a chance you've seen me shooting off updates such as "60 cows milked, 140 more to go" or "only 30 more cows standing between me and breakfast." I'm not sure if tweets like that have prompted it, but I have received lots of questions over the past few days asking why we milk the time of day we do.

Before I answer the questions of "why", let me first explain how our normal milking schedule shapes up. My dad and I handle the morning milking chores. The barn lights come on a few minutes after 3am, and by 3:45 the first cows are being milked. It usually takes us about three hours to milk 200 cows and wash the milking machines in the mornings, so lately we've been heading home for breakfast a few minutes before 7am. We start the afternoon milking around 1:30pm, and we're usually finished by 4:00.  

Most dairies schedule their milking shifts on even intervals...12 hours apart if milking twice a day, 8 hours apart if milking three times. We do it a little differently, though. Starting early in the afternoon means we're finished early enough to participate in whatever evening activities might be happening in our community. We extend our morning start-time beyond 12 hours from the previous afternoon because we'd each rather have five hours of continuous sleep than a couple of 2-3 hour naps on either side of the shift.

Not adhering to a normal milking schedule might cost us a little bit of milk production, but the "quality of life" we gain is worth it. We get more substantial rest at night, and we have more freedom in the evening. Thanks to our crazy schedule, my dad had the time to coach my youth baseball team when I was a kid, I have the time to help coach my son's team now, and we both have the time to attend meetings in town or basketball games over at Mississippi State. And trust me...our employees have NEVER complained about being finished by 4pm!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Saturday morning fun on the farm

We don't "officially" work on Saturday mornings between breakfast and lunch, but there are often chores that need to be attended to before we return for the afternoon milking. For instance, my dad and I moved cows into a grazing pasture this morning, and I then distributed a couple of hay bales to some heifers. I documented the work with three six-second "Vine" videos which you will see embedded below. Be warned: the videos are short but the cheesiness value is very high.

Monday, February 4, 2013

So God made a farmer...and I wrote a blog post.

As I type this Monday evening, I realize that last night's buzz over Dodge/Ram Trucks' "Farmer" Super Bowl commercial has continued on across blogs and social networks throughout the day. By now you are probably well-aware that the ad is part of their "Year of the Farmer" campaign, that Paul Harvey's narration was from a speech he delivered at the 1978 FFA Convention, and that his speech had been used previously in similar videos. So instead of rehashing what's already been written and said, let me give you my personal take.

My Twitter timeline started blowing up after the commercial aired during the second half of Super Bowl XLVII. I tweeted out a few related thoughts and was overwhelmed by the number of re-tweets, "favorites", and new followers they garnered me. Ditto that for my farm's Facebook page. What really made me smile, though, were the messages I received from people who told me they thought about me and my family when they saw the commercial. What a great feeling!

As I've thought about this through the day, it's really driven home the point that I may really be the "Face of Farming" for some folks. Whether we've ever actually met or have only conversed via social media, their perception of modern agriculture is shaped at least in part by my willingness to share and discuss what happens on my family's dairy farm. That realization gives me both enthusiasm and a heightened sense of responsibility to continue doing what I love: farming and telling you about it!

If you are a farmer or rancher, there's a pretty good chance you've received similar feedback. You're the first person that comes to mind when someone thinks about agriculture, so stand up straight and proud and keep up the good work! And if you're one of the folks that took the time to acknowledge me, my family, or another farm family somewhere in the good ol' USA, thank YOU for deciding somewhere along the way to get to know us and listen to our stories. 

There's an old saying that "it takes all types", so God made a farmer.  I'm mighty proud He made me one, and I'm thankful you've given me the opportunity to tell you about it.