WSU student Anna Gibson shares more adventures from working on a dairy in Tasmania.Working in the dairy industry, I have witnessed amazing moments: a calf's first breath, perfect sunrises, cows recovering from illness, and countless moments where I can't imagine myself doing anything else. But, there are moments of worry at Shoestring Dairy.
The other night while putting cows away, I got stuck in the mud with the two-wheeler at 9:30 p.m. To make matters more frustrating, while wiggling knee deep in mud, I heard hoofsteps. I looked up to find 15 cows walking up the lane way. I was taught never to panic, but I came close when I saw cows heading towards the road. I diverted the cows in the lane way as I called my boss. As I waited for him to arrive, I thought: "Where did these cows come from? Are they dry? From a neighboring farm? What do I do with them?"
When my boss arrived in his truck, he chuckled, "Rough night?" I was not in tears but close and said, "Yeah, I have had smoother nights."
We found the busted fence, removed the bike from the mud, and I even got a dinner invitation. It was a late night, but no harm done and lessons learned. If the cows get out, I know to put them in a neighboring paddock until we find where they belong, and never trust what looks like only a little muddy. (puddle)
Mistakes happen, and nights don't always go smoothly. As workers and as individuals, we have two choices: we can panic or fix the problem. In some jobs, when a mistake occurs, an individual can "sweep it under the rug" and wait for someone else to fix it later. In the dairy industry, when a problem arises - no matter the time of day or the degree of the problem - it gets fixed.
I feel this quality alone says a lot about the character of the people who work in this industry. Who else, besides a farmer, would drive out in the dead of night to assist with calving, drop dinner, get out of bed to wrangle cows back in their pen, or be constantly checking to ensure they are healthy? Being a farmer is hard work, and I am learning it first hand. This is the first time where "farmer" is my number one job, and with that title comes all of the responsibilities.
There is a stereotype assigned to people who work crazy hours - they are not happy and their job feels like work. Amazingly enough, for me, dairy farming does not feel like work. Some days I calculate the hours I spent fixing fences, feeding silage, moving cows, and milking, and it blows my mind that every job I have done has been enjoyable. I know that in a heartbeat, I would grab my bibs and mucks and be out at the dairy.
This experience only reinforces the knowledge that I am meant to be here! Even when I run into those problem nights where cows get out, milk leaks from the vessel, or I hit a post with the silage wagon, there is no other place in the world I would rather be than right here on the farm.