I have not been on a farm in a few years. The animals and the lifestyle are quite fascinating to me. And do you realize that is exactly what it is? A lifestyle. Ask them and I am sure they will tell you:
When we were riding over to one of Tillamook’s farmer-owner’s dairy farms, one of our lovely “tour guides” told us to ask the farmer when their last vacation was. Like, a REAL vacation where they were able to get away for a bit. Why ask this question? Because she knows. Dairy farming is an all-day, every-day thing. The hours extend far beyond the typical 9am to 5pm, and there are no holidays. The cows still need to be milked on Thanksgiving and Christmas morning. And on many farms, it is a family-run operation and even the kids have chores to complete on the farm.
In fact, the cows need to be milked at least two times a day. Their first milking is typically between 2 and 4am… with the second one around 12 hours later. Plus, a cow can drink an entire bathtub full of water. It takes about 2 gallons of water to make one gallon of milk, so they must stay hydrated. The farmer has to make sure this happens. Then, around 9am, and after being awake for several hours already, you will typically find the farmer able to sit down for breakfast before continuing their day.
More than 50% of a dairy farmer’s income will go back into the cost of feeding the cows.
The average Holstein can eat up to 100 pounds of feed each day. This feed typically consists of both home-grown and purchased forages and grains. The farmer becomes an animal nutritionist, among their many other jobs. Jobs that include engineer, mechanic, contractor, business manager, and veterinarian. Along with a host of others. The farmer we visited kept meticulous records of each and every cow. Medicines. Pregnancies. Births. Simply anything and everything the cow had been through. Ummm… that is almost better than the record keeping I do for my kids, Y’all.
Dairy farming is no joke. In addition to milking the cows twice a day, the barns also have to be cleaned. While the cows are in being milked, the manure has to be scraped from the alleys and stalls and fresh hay is thrown in. And yes, quite to a cow tipper’s dismay, cows do sleep lying down. After 6 hours a day eating and another 6 hours chewing cud, they need their rest as well.
After the day’s work is done, the farmer also needs sleep before getting up and starting all over again early the next morning. But going to bed doesn’t mean the job stops there. A pregnant cow about to birth a calf or an escaped herd can mean more work to be done in the nighttime hours. The farm operates non-stop, 24 hours a day, so there is never a moment when the farmer is not just that… a farmer.
By the way, the farmer-owner we visited? She could not remember the last time they had a vacation. But she did say they were able to take 2 days away with the family. But it had been a while.
Farm Fun Facts:
- A dairy farmer will likely go through at least two pairs of rubber boots each year. Some may be more, some may be less. It depends on how hard they are on them and the kind of boots they wear.
- Farmers prize their nap time. After lunch you can be sure that most dairy farmers will take some quiet time before heading back to the barn for the afternoon milking.
- In Tillamook County, humans are outnumbered by cows. There are about 28,000 dairy cows in Tillamook County.
- Tillamook County is approximately 60% Holstein (black and white spotted) and 40% Jersey (light tan to dark brown).
- A Holsteins spots are like a human’s fingerprint. No two cows have the exact same pattern.
- A Jersey cow produces less milk than a Holstein, but their milk has higher components (butterfat and protein).
- A Holstein calf can weigh about 96 pounds when it is born. By the time it is 1-year-old, it will be over 600 pounds.
The trip to the Tillamook Cheese Factory and Farm was one of the most amazing trips I have ever been on. Not only did I learn so much about their product, their way of life, and their company as a whole… but I learned about their values and strengths. Their belief in each other. It was truly a remarkable experience.
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