When I’d visit my grandparents’ farm as a child, I often wondered why my grandparents enjoyed waking up at four o’clock in the morning, why they always had to stop playing with me at three in the afternoon, and why supper at their house was always served after my normal bedtime.
My older brother always told me that when he grew up he wanted to be a dairy farmer, just like my grandparents. Whenever he’d mention this, I’d ask myself: Who would ever want to be a dairy farmer? But if this is what my older brother thought was his life calling, who was I to tell him otherwise?
Fast-forward fifteen years, and I am no longer the kid who couldn’t understand her grandparents or brother. Now, I consider myself to be a multi-generational dairy farmer, however untraditional it may be.
My great-grandparents passed on the milking tradition to my grandma. Together, my grandma and grandpa moved out to a dairy farm in South Dakota when my dad was in high school. When my dad was finished with college, he moved back to milk right next door to my grandparents.
The dairy markets got really bad several years after my dad started milking. My parents decided that it was best to take my two older brothers and move to town. I was born one and a half years later and spent my growing up years in town.
So how does a girl go from growing up in town to spending every spare moment around cows?
The answer is not what you would expect: college.
Now I do realize that deciding to be a dairy farmer isn’t the normal reaction that people have to college, but when college is as expensive as it is, you have to find some way to pay the bills.
When I started college, my husband, Brett, encouraged me to come along with him to milk. He told me that it would be a “great” way to spend time together.
I went reluctantly, but the more I went more my love for cows grew. These were animals that would snuggle up against you, lick you, and I loved it.
It was when I first started to work by myself at a dairy that I realized how much I really did love these animals. I worked with Jersey cows and found them to be the most compassionate, tender, and gentle-spirited animals. They were also the most stubborn, but I can be pretty stubborn myself, so I appreciated that characteristic.
Four years later, I have milked at several other dairies, raised calves in my backyard, bought four cows, and worked alongside Brett at the 700-cow dairy, where he is currently the herdsman.
When I started, I sometimes wished that we would be a normal couple who’s dates did not consist of staying up till two in the morning milking cows.
Now I wouldn’t trade the life of a dairy farmer for anything.
About a year ago, Brett and I first started to look into buying a dairy farm. We knew we wanted to be dairy farmers and this was the most obvious choice.
It turns out that it’s a lot harder to be a dairy farmer than we thought, especially when you don’t have parents who own a dairy. We tried to rent a dairy in the area where we both grew up, but that fell through. We also attempted to buy a different dairy, but we were encouraged to save up some money before plunging in.
Brett ended up being offered the herdsman position at that 700-cow dairy I mentioned and we realized that this would be a way to build up our herd without needing to rent or buy a dairy farm.
So we didn’t rent and we didn’t buy.
Instead, we bought four cows and a house in town.