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!


Steph said...

I've always wondered why the crazy schedule! We've always worked our chickens at 7AM, and on Sundays, about 5AM to finish before church. I like to have that over and done with!

Unknown said...

This country does not need so much milk that it depletes the entire life of everyone working on any dairy farm. If there's not enough - maybe we need more homes with a family cow.

I think the choices y'all make for your family, your life and your farm are awesome. Your example speaks clearly to the sense of ' Balance ' with everything in favor of standing up for ' Family First. ' That's how life on earth should only exist.

MGHughes said...

It is a good thing that not everybody can have a family cow... but People are finding ways of bringing back the viability of small farms and that is a good thing that needs more attention.

MGHughes said...

Potentially interesting question I thought to bring up to ask you and a few other farms... How does your farm handle the spring/fall daylight savings time change?

Will Gilmer said...

We don't have a standard plan that we use, but we started milking the cows about 20 minutes earlier than normal this afternoon. If we start at normal "clock" time tomorrow morning, I don't expect to see much problem.

Kathy Skweres said...

My neighbor has seven children, so he did get a milk cow. The older kids know how to milk the cow too. I think its great for them. But for the majority, the Dairy farmers, farmers and cattle ranchers keep us all going.
Kathy Skweres