“Did you check the tanks?”
“Did you check the temperature charts?”
“Did you check the sick cow pen?”
“Did you check the chemicals?”
“Did you check with your Uncle Andy to see if he needed anything?”
“What was the dry matter intake?”
“What was the milk average?”
“96.3 pounds per cow.”
“How much did it go up or down from yesterday?”
“Um . . . I’ll have to check.”
This is the same conversation Dad and I have had for the past seven years before heading home for the day. Dad will ask me as many questions as it takes to get to one where I am not quite sure of the answer and have to walk back into the office to check.
When I graduated college, I knew a lot about cow handling and a little about the business, but I was truly clueless about the information that he kept up with on a daily basis. So, as you can imagine, the end of the day questions were tough for me. He would be hard on me for not knowing the answers or understanding the questions he was asking.
Seven years later, I am definitely better at answering his questions, but he still keeps asking until he finds something that I don’t know. At first, I thought he was doing this to pick on me. At times I felt like I wasn’t cut out for this career. I would forget to check something, and he would always find that one question.
I felt swamped in information overload. I was trying so hard to be one step ahead of him, yet I was always one step behind him. I would get aggravated, upset, and mad . . . at him and myself. I would think, “Dang, just give me a break!”
The questions became easier as time passed, but only because he never let up on me. Every day I knew -and still know - that questions are coming. I need to be prepared to answer them, and I strive to not get to one I do not know.
Fresh out of college, my dad and I butted heads because he was so hard on me. I couldn’t understand why, and I thought I was doing the best I could. But I didn’t I realize every little detail he was keeping up with compared to the “here and there” details I kept up with.
Dad has really stepped back since construction started on the robots. Since then, I have never laid down and not thought about what I might have forgotten that day or what needs to be done so much in my life.
My thoughts and dreams go somewhat like this: In what order should tomorrow’s tasks be done? That cow in the close-up pen needs to be looked at by the vet next week, but I forgot to write a reminder note. Number 7846 . . . why is that cow stuck in my head? I probably need to squeeze in urine pH’s for the nutritionist tomorrow if I can. It’s probably time to reapply heifer minerals in the paddocks. Did I check tank chemicals? Oh yeah, I did. That was the question my dad asked before I left that had me going back in to check.
He was and still is hard on me. But now I know why.
Mark and Caitlin Rodgers are dairy farmers in Dearing, Georgia. Their “Father and Daughter Dairy Together” column appears every other Thursday on HD Notebook. The Rodgers have a 400-cow dairy that averages 32,000 pounds of milk. Follow their family farm on Facebook at Hillcrest Farms Inc.